An Apple (AAPL) spokeswoman lied recently when she said Steve Jobs’ haggard look lately was due to a “common bug,” a remarkable piece in the New York Times this weekend strongly suggests.

NYT columnist Joe Nocera so dogged Apple about Jobs’ health issue that Jobs apparently picked up the phone to call Nocera directly, and gave him an off-the-record explanation of what is really ailing him.

Jobs’ sickness is more serious than company representatives had acknowledged, but the health problems aren’t life-threatening and his cancer apparently hasn’t recurred, Jobs apparently told Nocera.

The piece provides some notable insight into Jobs’ character:

“This is Steve Jobs,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, when he called Nocera last week. “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.”

Most significant, however, as Nocera himself points out, Jobs was willing to entrust the truth about his malady to a columnist Jobs calls a “slime bucket” before his own company’s shareholders.

And yet, these machinations sound fishy. Read what Dan Lyons has to say about the matter. It makes you wonder whether Nocera was completely played. In the end, we really don’t know what the company has to say, on the record, about Jobs’ health. This may not be the end of it.

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