If you’ve noticed a conspicuous absence on CNN of the network’s chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin for the last eight months or so, you probably already know that’s because he and CNN took a break after he unintentionally groped his penis in front of colleagues on an October 2020 Zoom call. The incident cost him his other, 27-year job as a staff writer for the New Yorker and, to add insult to injury, quickly became an internet meme.
Well, Toobin’s now back on his post-cancellation rehabilitation tour. Per the Wrap, Toobin re-appeared on CNN on Thursday to explain his side of the Zoom dick incident and state he was “incredibly grateful to CNN for taking [him] back.” Toobin will return to the network as its chief legal analyst, according to CNN.
Everyone working remotely has pondered the etiquette of work video calls during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—how to dress, whether to kick pets out of the room, if eating or drinking is rude. But Toobin’s was not exactly a routine mistake, only slightly lower on the cringe meter than the innumerable “Zoombombings” that saw trolls flooding classrooms and meetings across the country and the video streaming software’s own security failures.
The original incident occurred while Toobin was remotely working on a podcast with colleagues including Jane Mayer and Masha Gessen from the New Yorker and others from radio station WNYC. Gessen told the New York Times that colleagues witnessed Toobin adjusting his webcam, exposing and touching his genitals, and motioning an air kiss to someone apparently not on the work call. It seemed that Toobin was not aware he was streaming video to the work call, but he was immediately suspended from the magazine (later fired) and not invited back on CNN until now.
Toobin told CNN Newsroom anchor Alisyn Camerota that while he remained “on leave” from CNN and his behavior was “deeply moronic and indefensible,” it wasn’t intentional and certainly not part of a pattern.
“Obviously, I wasn’t thinking very well or very much and it was something that was inexplicable to me,” Toobin told Camerota, according to The Wrap. “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. That’s not a defense.”
“This was not the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he added. “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.”
Toobin added that his subsequent termination from the New Yorker seemed “excessive, but look: That’s why they don’t ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case.”
If anyone somehow remains unclear on how not to have this happen to them, here’s our comprehensive guide to not pulling out your genitals in front of coworkers on a Zoom call.