Gay Apple CEO Tim Cook says he had an important influence in coming out: Anderson Cooper. Cook sat down for a lengthy interview with The Washington Post, published Saturday, in which he discussed his “multiple meetings” with the CNN anchor prior to going public about his sexuality.
“I was getting advice from people who I thought were really great people who really deeply thought about it,” he told the Post. This included Cooper, as Cook “thought that the way he handled his announcement was really classy.”
The newsman came out during an email exchange with a longtime friend, the libertarian blogger Andrew Sullivan, in 2012. In the conversation, Cooper discussed his own need for privacy, especially as a journalist. By staying quiet about his sexuality, his goal was to avoid becoming part of the story — instead keeping the focus on his subjects.
“It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something,” he wrote, adding, “This is distressing because it is simply not true.”
Cooper also explained that in becoming visible, he hoped to make a difference for LGBT youth, who may not be accepted because of their identity.
"There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people,” Cooper wrote, “as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand. The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”
These ideas were a clear influence on Cook. In a 2014 editorial for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the CEO said his reticence to speak about his personal life was based in a desire to put work first.
“Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy,” he wrote. “I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.”
Cook said, though, that he realized coming out could make a huge difference in the lives of people around the world.
“If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality,” Cook stated, “then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”
The CEO reiterated these points to the Post, saying he received hundreds of messages from kids who had been forced out of their homes for being LGBT.
“They thought they couldn’t achieve anything,” Cook said. “They couldn’t do anything. They were seeing the national discourse around it and feeling isolated and depressed. And I just thought — I’ve got to do something. … I thought it would minimally say you can do pretty good in this world and be gay.”