Toobin returns to CNN eight months after Zoom publicity incident

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Jeffrey Toobin in San Francisco, California on Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

Scott Strazzante | San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin returned to television Thursday, eight months after exposing himself to colleagues at The New Yorker and WNYC Radio during a video conference.

Toobin appeared with host Alisyn Camerota, who opened the segment by asking the former Justice Department attorney and longtime legal correspondent, “To quote Jay Leno, ‘What the hell were you thinking?'”

“Obviously I wasn’t thinking very well or very much. It was something I couldn’t explain,” Toobin replied.

Toobin was masturbated during a Zoom call with his staff in October that was supposed to be a simulation of the upcoming presidential election. Some of those on the call said they didn’t think Toobin intended his colleagues to see him, a point Toobin repeated on Thursday.

“I thought I turned off the Zoom call. This is not a defense. That was deeply stupid and unjustifiable, but that’s part of the story, ”Toobin told Camerota.

Toobin was fired from The New Yorker following the incident, ending a 27-year career with the magazine. At the time, CNN said Toobin asked for time off and the media granted it.

Toobin said Thursday he thought his release from the magazine was an exaggeration, but noted, “I’m the worst person to ask that question.”

“I thought this punishment was excessive, but that’s why they don’t require the criminal to be the judge in his own case,” Toobin said.

Toobin said he had used the past few months trying to become a better person, noting that he had volunteered at a blackboard, worked on a book about the Oklahoma City bombing, and had therapy.

His return to the news network comes at a time when both the print and broadcast media are grappling with how to address inappropriate comments and behaviors by employees, especially with acts that are not directly related to work.

The broader accounting within the industry has also drawn criticism of a double standard: high-profile journalists see relatively little discipline for perceived ethical violations, while some younger employees face dismissal for ambiguous offenses.

Toobin’s comeback also comes shortly after CNN laid off another high profile employee, former GOP Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum came under fire from Native American groups after giving a speech in April saying that the United States “born a nation out of nothing. I mean, there was nothing here.”

“I mean, yes, we have Indians,” said Santorum. “But quite frankly, that – there isn’t a lot of Native American culture in American culture.”

Santorum later said he had spoken wrongly. In a May appearance on Fox News, he said, “CNN has the right to fire me.”

“If you don’t like what I say or do, you have the right to fire me. I have absolutely no animus towards CNN, ”he added.

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