On the Jobs health scandal

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Like Jesus and FDR, Steve Jobs was put on this earth to do good. In fact he’s doing so much good that scumbags like Joe Nocera are getting rambling, expletive-laced calls from him in the middle of the night denying all allegations that Steve-o won’t be around next year to release another line of thinner, more wow-filled PMPs.

It went down like this: Joe Nocera, an NYT veteran reporter, wrote a story essentially positing that Apple was hiding a serious illness from the shareholders, essentially lying to ensure that iPhone 3G mania doesn’t dampen because of news of pancreatic cancer. The story runs on Saturday and Joe gets a call from Steve: “This is Steve Jobs. You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” He then had an off-the-record discussion with Nocera about his health, essentially shutting Nocera up for good. As Dan Lyons points out, Nocera can no longer speak on the subject and when/if the SEC subpoenas him, he can’t and won’t talk. Nocera is a skilled reporter who could probably suss out the truth over time. By heading him off at the pass, Apple has essentially silenced him. He’s bound by ethical considerations to essentially be an Apple PR organ.

Lyons writes:

The CEO calls you up out of the blue and you’re knocked back on your heels, scrambling to find a pen and wondering what you should ask, and when he says he wants to talk off the record or he’ll hang up right now you think, Jeez, I’ve got the guy on the phone, I might as well let him talk, I’ve got him halfway over the gunwale and into my net, I’m not going to risk throwing him back.

So maybe that’s a factor. But Joe Nocera is a veteran. He’s a pro. He knows that the ambush call is a sure sign that something’s not right. These calls are never legit. They’re never truly an impulse call. Guys like Jobs do not just pick up a phone and call a reporter on an impulse. Ever.

Nocera also knows why guys like Jobs play the off-the-record game, and he knows that it’s the surest way to get pwned by a source

So what is going on here? Steve is sick. Rumor has it that he was in the hospital during the iPhone/MobileMe launch and, as a result, the company lost focus. Apple doesn’t know what the outcome will be and Apple is riding on good news right now and they don’t want to spoil the party. Shareholders, it seems, be damned: Steve’s heath is a private matter. The company has, for years, tied its success to the powers of the great guru. Now that that guru is in danger Apple is probably pulling out catastrophe plans and trying to convince Jonathan Ive to come on as CEO. Their market share is high, their products are beloved, and, in a sense, the shareholders are happy. Why spoil it with health news?

Shareholders are a skittish lot. When you have no information you act on everything. After all, the red-eyed rantings of some kids at AOL could knock $4 billion off of Apple’s valuation. It’s the price of capitalism.

Ultimately, this will blow over. The world gives Apple a pass because, in a sense, they’re the only game worth covering anymore. They are the exotic car in the parking lot at Denny’s – worth a second look simply because the Corollas and Chevy Malibus next to them pale in comparison. Just don’t ask the driver how often that exotic breaks down and how much it costs to fix when it does… it would ruin the magic.

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