Disgraced CNN legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin Thursday made an abrupt and unannounced return to the cable network, and acknowledged masturbating while on a Zoom call with colleagues from The New Yorker last year.
Toobin, 61, who became the butt of jokes by late-night comics after the October incident and was fired a month later by The New Yorker, where he was a staff writer, apologized for his actions in a segment with CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, who described the incident in which Toobin “was caught masturbating on camera.”
“I’m trying now to say how sorry I am, sincerely. Above all. I am sorry to my wife and to my family, but I’m also sorry to the people on the Zoom call. I’m sorry to my former colleagues at The New Yorker. I’m sorry to my current, fortunately, still colleagues at CNN. And I’m sorry to the people who read my work and watched me on CNN who thought I was a better person than this,” said Toobin, seated next to Camerota at he CNN anchor desk. “I’ve 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.”
CNN confirmed Toobin’s reinstatement as a legal analyst but made no further comment. The New Yorker declined comment.
More:Jeffrey Toobin is fired by The New Yorker magazine after his naked Zoom debacle
In confirming Camerota’s description, he added a slight qualification, explaining he wasn’t aware that he was on camera while masturbating.
“I didn’t think other people could see me,” he said. “I thought that I had turned off the Zoom call. Now, that’s not a defense. This was deeply moronic and indefensible.”
Toobin said he started apologizing to New Yorker colleagues the same day.
“They were shocked and appalled. I think they realized that this was not intended for them. I think they realized that this was something that I would immediately regret, as I certainly did,” he said. “And it was then it was that day that I began apologizing. And that is something that I have tried to continue to do, both publicly and privately.”
Vice first reported on the incident in October. At the time, Toobin issued a less-detailed statement.
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers,” he told Vice.
Camerota noted the irony of Toobin being caught up in such a scandal after he’s covered many public figures, including former President Bill Clinton, when they faced sexual misconduct allegations. She asked why he didn’t exercise better judgment.
“Because I didn’t have better judgment. Because I’m a flawed human being who makes mistakes,” Toobin responded. “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, fortunately, for which I’m very grateful.”
Toobin, who found the New Yorker firing “heartbreaking,” said the magazine told him that its investigation of his 27-year career there revealed no other complaints about his behavior. He told Camerota that “there are no (other) surprises out there about my conduct.”
Toobin said he thinks The New Yorker “punishment was excessive, but that’s why they don’t ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case. I am grateful to CNN for taking me back. Other people are going to weigh in about whether it was appropriate for them to get rid of me and for CNN to keep me.”
When Camerota brought up how late-night comedians had a field day with Toobin’s transgression, he said, “How about two segments on ‘Saturday Night Live’ about me?,” suggesting it was a sore point.
Camerota mentioned how even O.J. Simpson, whose murder trial Toobin wrote a book about, inspiring that inspired an Emmy-winning FX miniseries, took a shot at him. She wondered whether such comments would color his legal analysis.
“I really don’t think so. My dad used to say, ‘You can judge a person by their enemies.’ And if my enemy is O.J. Simpson, that is OK with me,” he said.
Then, they shifted to discussion of a federal judge’s decision striking down a California assault-weapons ban