The rumors about Apple CEO Steve Jobs's health are a big concern for shareholders. And one would think Apple's head of PR would actively push to clear the air and fight the rumors with a clear statement. But instead of doing her job properly, Katie Cotton has been actively deceiving the public about the state of her indispensable boss's body.
Cotton's title is vice president of worldwide corporate communications at Apple. But her real job is serving as Apple CEO Steve Jobs's personal flack. Always at Jobs's side, Cotton puts Jobs's interests ahead of Apple's — sometimes quite literally, like when she took time away from Apple to handle PR for Disney's acquisition of Pixar, where Jobs was CEO but where Cotton did not work. The Pixar deal may have been good for Jobs personally — he is now one of Disney's largest shareholders, and a board member there — but it's not clear how the interests of Apple shareholders were served by Cotton's extracurricular efforts. After Jobs's gaunt appearance at the announcement of the iPhone 3G in June sparked questions about his health — including speculation that his cancer might have returned — Cotton had an opportunity to lay out the facts: Jobs's pancreatic surgery in 2004, while successful, was not without complications. Removing part of the pancreas requires a rewiring of the digestive tract. Weight loss is a common side effect, as food rushes undigested through the body. That matter can create blockages, which in turn can lead to infections. That seems like the most likely explanation for what happened to Jobs before Apple's World Wide Developers Conference: He suffered a blockage which lead to an infection, requiring treatment. Instead, Cotton told reporters that Jobs had a "common bug" and had been taking antibiotics. Not exactly a lie, but far from the complete truth — her phrasing was obviously meant to suggest Jobs had some kind of cold. In fact, he had to have a surgical procedure to address the problem, the New York Times recently reported. Hardly a "common bug." Cotton is obviously serving her boss's obsessive need for privacy. But in an age when we ask presidential candidates for their medical records, is it too much to expect a company like Apple to provide basic, accurate information about its CEO's health — especially when billions of dollars of Apple's market value are attributed to Jobs himself? Cotton should remember this: She doesn't actually work for Steve Jobs. She works for Apple's shareholders. If it's too late for her to start doing her job accordingly, then it's time for her to go. (Photo by Violet Blue))