Jeffrey Toobin is back on CNN after ‘embarrassingly stupid mistake’
Longtime CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin returned to the network Thursday for the first time since masturbating during a Zoom meeting attended by the staff of the New Yorker, where he worked for 27 years until his dismissal in November.
Toobin, 61, addressed the scandal before discussing several legal issues with anchor Alisyn Camerota — a signal to viewers that he was back as a commentator for the network after being on leave since the incident. He was in the New York studio for the segment.
Toobin was fired by the New Yorker on Nov. 11 after what was perhaps the most famously humiliating snafu of the work-at-home era created by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Oct. 19, Toobin exposed his genitals during a virtual meeting with staffers from the New Yorker and WNYC radio in preparation for 2020 election coverage.
“To quote Jay Leno ‘what the hell were you thinking?’” Camerota asked, using a famous line by the late-night host when he interviewed actor Hugh Grant after being caught with a prostitute.
“Well, obviously I wasn’t thinking very well or very much,” Toobin said. “It was something that was inexplicable to me... I didn’t think I was on the call. I didn’t think other people could see me.”
Toobin believed he had turned off the Zoom call, adding that his explanation is “not a defense, this was deeply moronic and indefensible, but that is part of the story.”
A Washington Post report says Chris Cuomo participated on staff calls to help Gov. Andrew Cuomo manage his crisis.
The former prosecutor said he spent the last seven months in therapy, doing public service work in a food bank and working on a new book about the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City.
“I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again,” Toobin said.
When Camerota asked Toobin what he thought it was like to be on the receiving end of the Zoom call, Toobin said he has spoken to several former colleagues at the New Yorker about the matter. “They were shocked and appalled,” Toobin said. “I think they realized this was not intended for them.”
Toobin apologized to his wife, his former New Yorker colleagues, and current colleagues at CNN. “I got a lot to rebuild, but I feel very privileged and very lucky that I’m going to be able to try to do that,” he said.
Camerota noted the irony that Toobin’s career as an analyst was built largely on his coverage of the bad behavior and sexual proclivities of major public figures such as former Presidents Clinton and Trump, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner.
“I didn’t have better judgment,” Toobin said. “I’m a flawed human who makes mistakes. There is no defense for my conduct. The only issue is what should be the consequences, and the New Yorker made one decision about the consequences. CNN made a different decision, for which I am very grateful.”
CNN had no comment on Toobin’s return.
Toobin noted that the investigation conducted by New Yorker parent Conde Nast after the incident turned up no other co-worker complaints about his behavior. “People can claim what they want, but I don’t think there is anything further that’s going to come out,” Toobin said.
Toobin said he thought the New Yorker’s firing of him was an “excessive punishment” and expressed gratitude that CNN is giving him a second chance.
The Zoom incident is not the first scandal in Toobin’s career. The pundit has a son by fellow lawyer Casey Greenfield, with whom he had a lengthy on-and-off affair. She got pregnant in 2008, but he didn’t admit paternity until sometime later, after a DNA test.
Toobin has been married to Amy McIntosh for 34 years, and they have two children.
CNN is gaining a reputation as a very forgiving place to work. The WarnerMedia unit took no action after a Washington Post report revealed last month that CNN host Chris Cuomo had participated in staff calls with his brother New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations against the Democratic politician.
Chris Cuomo acknowledged that his actions were a mistake but did not face a suspension for what was a fundamental breach of journalistic ethics.
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