After Valleywag reported that Apple had laid off 50 salespeople last week, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling issued a blanket denial: "Not true." Turns out the layoffs happened, and Dowling lied, CNET News reports.

No surprise that an Apple flack lied. Under CEO Steve Jobs, the company has made a fetish of secrecy, misdirection, and fabrication. Dowling may have been following orders, or he may have been misled by a colleague himself. (He has not responded to a voicemail asking for comment.) But on matters as important as Jobs's own health, Apple flacks have consistently deceived reporters, and — worse yet — gotten caught.

What still surprises us, though, is how many people are so eager to trust the word of a flack with a shoddy reputation for honesty.

California law requires warning in advance of layoffs of 50 or more employees. But the salespeople in question were split between Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., and Austin, Texas, which means the layoff wasn't subject to the layoff-warning rule.

And they weren't that big a deal, either, in the grand scheme of things. Hewlett-Packard, which has offices right next door to Apple, is in the process of laying off some 15,000 employees. Why not acknowledge the layoffs, and point out how small they were in comparison to others? The only reason I can think of why an Apple spokesman would lie about something as minor as these layoffs: Sheer force of habit.

(Photo via Esquire)