CNN’s former legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin has opened up about an infamous video conference call that earned him a suspension from his writing job at the New Yorker and forced him to take a prolonged leave of absence from the network.
The conference call happened in October 2020 while staff writers and other employees of the New Yorker and radio station WNYC were working from home due to the ongoing coronavirus health pandemic.
During the call, Toobin’s colleagues witnessed him masturbating in the same room as his computer. The incident was first reported by the Vice News publication Motherboard; at the time, Toobin said he was not aware his camera was on, or that people on the conference call were able to see him.
“I believed I was not visible on Zoom,” Toobin said at the time. “I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”
The incident prompted the New Yorker to suspend Toobin, and he ultimately decided to take a leave of absence from CNN, where he worked as an on-air legal commentator. He returned to the network a few months later, only to depart CNN on his own terms late last year.
On Wednesday, Toobin made an appearance on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live,” where he explained that his workplace misconduct was the result of “self-inflicted” and “self-destructive” behavior.
“[It is] something that I will regret for the rest of my life,” Toobin said. “I have no excuses. I have only apologies, which I have tried to offer to everyone involved, including very much my family, which was terribly embarrassed by it.”
Toobin told Abrams he didn’t want to discuss the particulars of what happened that day — “And I’ll be honest,” Abrams quipped, “I don’t really want to get into the details.” — but reaffirmed he didn’t believe anyone on the video call was able to see him while he was pleasuring himself.
“I didn’t know other people were on the Zoom call, were watching,” Toobin affirmed, referring to the software used for the video call. “This was not an intentional act on my part.”
Toobin said he felt fortunate that CNN invited him back after the incident. He also confirmed that his departure from the network was mutual, and not a termination that was connected to the October 2020 incident or anything else.
Toobin’s appearance on NewsNation was part of a promotional tour for his book, “Homegrown,” which connects the January 6 insurrection and other high-profile, politically-related incidents to the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City committed by domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh. The book was released on Tuesday; it is published by Simon & Shuster, a subsidiary of entertainment giant Paramount Global.