Apple CEO Tim Cook had a great seat at the Golden Globes on Sunday night. The seat was so good, in fact, that he was able to see and hear clearly actor and comedian Ricky Gervais slam his company.
During his opening monologue, Gervais noted that Apple's new series, The Morning Show, had earned a nomination for best television series drama. When he mentioned Apple, the camera panned to Tim Cook, who had a smile on his face. He probably lost it before the sentence was over.
"Apple rolled into the TV game with a superb drama about the importance of dignity and doing the right thing, made by a company that runs sweatshops in China," Gervais said. The camera moved away from Cook's face before the punch line, leaving us all to wonder how he reacted when the joke landed.
But Gervais wasn't done. He then turned his attention to the actors in the room, and seemed to suggest that Apple and Disney aren't the best of companies to work with on creative projects.
"So, you say you're woke, but the companies you work for [are] unbelievable," Gervais said. "Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you'd call your agent, wouldn't you?"
Gervais's comments must not have sat well with Cook or Apple. The company is notorious for keeping tight control over its public image. And Cook, as the company's leader, may be one of the most tightly scripted executives in the world. Every comment, every commercial from Apple, is thought out and meant to preserve the company's brand appeal.
But China continues to be a problem for Apple.
Technically, Apple doesn't operate manufacturing facilities in China. Instead, the company partners with other companies, like Foxconn, to produce its devices.
That said, Apple's partners, and therefore Apple, have at times been criticized for poor working treatment. Apple has for years operated an audit system to inspect its third-party manufacturing partners and has a zero-tolerance policy on poor working conditions, child labor, and other workforce issues. But in its regular reports on working conditions in its supply chain, Apple still finds issues.
Ultimately, Apple argues that its suppliers make progress each year thanks in part to its audits and evaluations.
But that didn't save the company from Gervais's jokes Sunday night. And although we don't know for sure how Cook handled the jab, he made no indication on Twitter that he took offense.
"Congratulations to all of tonight's Golden Globes winners and nominees," Cook wrote. "It's an honor to be in the company of so many amazing storytellers. Our thanks go out to everyone who brings these remarkable stories to life."