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CNBC host's gaffe: Simon Hobbs wonders if he has 'outed' Apple CEO Tim Cook live on air: 'Oh dear, was that an error?'

Jim Stewart appeared on 'Squawk on the Street' to discuss lack of openly homosexual CEOs when Simon Hobbs made the claim

A CNBC panellist drew an awkward silence live on air on Saturday morning when co-host Simon Hobbs made the claim: “'I think Tim Cook is fairly open about the fact he’s gay at the head of Apple, isn’t he?”

The incident occurred when The New York Times columnist Jim Stewart appeared on CNBC's Friday edition of Squawk on the Street to discuss an article he had written on the lack of openly homosexual CEOs within corporate structures.

Tim Cook has never publically confirmed any speculation that he is gay and remains guarded about his private life.

He told the panel there is a “corporate culture that prevents powerful gay men from going public”, adding: “You’d think CEOs especially are measured by objective criteria, financial performance.”

Stewart was explaining to hosts that his attempts to gather comments from a number of CEO’s received a “very cool reception”, when Hobbs made his claim about Cook apparently being openly gay.

His comment was followed by a stunned silence, before Stewart replied “hmmm… no.”

Hobbs then made matters worse by saying: “Oh, dear, was that an error? I thought he was open about it.”

Stewart responded with: "I don't want to comment about anybody who might or might not be. I'm not going to out anybody," before the interview was quickly wrapped up.