Jeffrey Toobin made his CNN return Thursday, seven months after being fired from the New Yorker for exposing himself on a Zoom call with his colleagues. He said he was “incredibly grateful to CNN for taking [him] back.”
Since his November ouster from the New Yorker, which came after 27 years of employment, the media world has been wondering about Toobin’s fate as CNN’s chief legal analyst, but the cable network has stayed mum about his future. He was “on leave,” he confirmed during his on-air reemergence Thursday, adding that his behavior on that Zoom call last fall was “deeply moronic and indefensible.”
Anchor Alisyn Camerota — echoing the thoughts of just about everyone who’s read the story of what happened that fateful day in October — said asked him, “What the hell were you thinking?” Note, too, that Camerota, a Fox News alum, has been outspoken against sexual harassment in the media industry for years.
“Obviously, I wasn’t thinking very well or very much and it was something that was inexplicable to me. I think one point — I wouldn’t exactly say ‘in my defense,’ because nothing is really in my defense — I didn’t think I was on the call. I didn’t think other people could see me,” he said, adding, “That’s not a defense.”
Toobin issued an apology during his appearance on “CNN Newsroom,” making sure to include not only the people who were on the call and his former New Yorker colleagues, but also his CNN colleagues and his family. Still, he said, he was told by the people who conducted a review of his career at the New Yorker that there had been no prior complaints about him.
“This was not the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was just this incident. I was certainly relieved, but not surprised, that that was what they found, but yet nevertheless, they made the decision to get rid of me, which, needless to say, was heartbreaking for me,” he said, adding that he felt his firing was an “excessive” punishment.
“I loved the New Yorker. I loved working there. I felt like I was a very good contributor to that magazine for a very long time and I thought this punishment was excessive, but look: That’s why they don’t ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case,” he said.
As first reported by VICE last October, Toobin was on a call with staff from the New Yorker and WNYC for an election simulation when the whole fiasco happened. During the call, there was a brief “strategy session” and it appeared that Toobin was on another video call, according to individuals on the call who spoke with VICE. Toobin was then seen lowering his camera and touching his penis as he masturbated, VICE reported.
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers,” Toobin said at the time in a statement to VICE. “I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”
See clips of Toobin’s Thursday appearance on CNN below.