By Troy Wolverton
Posted August 30th 2018
- It has been well established that the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs often acted like a jerk.
- But in a new memoir, Jobs’ eldest daughter describes many ways he was cruel to her.
- The new anecdotes add color to the many stories of how Jobs was mean or rude to employees and business partners.
- The net effect is that Jobs looks like a truly terrible person.
- His rotten behavior was enabled by his wife, his colleagues, and his business partners.
- It’s hard to say whether his business achievements outweigh his cruelty, but they certainly got more attention during his lifetime — and helped enable his bad behavior.
It’s no surprise that Steve Jobs was a jerk.
There have been plenty of accounts over the years that have detailed his cruelty, rudeness, and miserliness to workers, business partners, and even family and friends.
Still, the stories that have come out so far from “Small Fry,” the new autobiography from his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs, are shocking. Jobs comes across not just as someone who could be self-centered and mean but as someone who was a truly terrible human being.
We’ve known for years that Jobs initially denied being Brennan-Jobs’ father and didn’t start paying child support until after a DNA test proved he was and a court ordered him to start paying. We’ve also known that he denied for years that Apple’s Lisa computer, which debuted right before the Macintosh, was named for his daughter — before finally acknowledging it to her and the world.
But Brennan-Jobs’ book adds fresh details. He rarely saw her when she was a young child, she says, even after admitting his paternity. While he was avoiding her and avoiding paying child support — despite already having founded and been making money at Apple — she and her mother lived in poverty, subsisting on welfare payments, her mother’s low-paying jobs, and the charity of others. When he was finally forced to pay child support, he made sure that the case against him was closed days before Apple went public and he became a multimillionaire.
Even after Jobs started paying more attention to Brennan-Jobs, her mother, Chrisann Brennan, apparently felt uncomfortable leaving him with her alone after an incident in which he was said to have questioned and teased the then-9-year-old Brennan-Jobs about her sexual attractions and proclivities.
‘We’re cold people’
Then, when Brennan-Jobs went to live with him as a teenager, she says, he forbade her from seeing Brennan for six months, even though her mother had been the only constant figure in her life up to then. After moving in with them, Brennan-Jobs told him and her stepmother, Laurene Powell Jobs, that she felt lonely and asked that they tell her goodnight in the evenings. Instead of acknowledging her feelings and acceding to such a simple request, Powell Jobs apparently responded, “We’re cold people.”
But there’s more. Once, she says, as Jobs groped his wife and pretended to be having sex with her, he demanded that Brennan-Jobs stay in the room, calling it a “family moment.” He repeatedly withheld money from her, told her that she would get “nothing” from his wealth — and even refused to install heat in her bedroom.
When she started to become active in her high school, getting involved in clubs and running for student government, Jobs — the one, again, who previously refused to acknowledge his paternity and spent almost no time with her when she was little — apparently got on Brennan-Jobs for not spending more time with the family, telling her: “This isn’t working out. You’re not succeeding as a member of this family.”
At one point, neighbors of the family were so worried about Brennan-Jobs that they helped her move into their house. They also helped her pay for college.
It’s bad to treat employees and significant others poorly. But it’s really evil to inflict such pain on a child. We knew Jobs was a bully toward many people. Now, it seems, we know he was one to his own daughter.