Jeffrey Toobin is back on CNN after eight-month exile forced by New Yorker Zoom incident

"What the hell were you thinking?” an anchor asked Toobin during an interview with the famous legal writer

Published June 10, 2021 5:59PM (EDT)

Jeffrey Toobin (Getty Images)
Jeffrey Toobin (Getty Images)

Jeffrey Toobin is back at CNN following a lengthy exile, forced by a viral incident in which the longtime New Yorker writer — he claims inadvertently — exposed himself during a staff video call at the magazine last year. 

A spokesperson for CNN confirmed the news immediately following an awkward interview on the network with anchor Alisyn Camerota, his first public comments since an initial apology during the brouhaha last October, which was first reported by VICE News. She began the conversation with a brief description of the incident, which got him fired from The New Yorker after 27 years at the prestigious magazine.

"In October, you were on a Zoom call with your colleagues from the New Yorker magazine," Camerota said. "Everyone took a break for several minutes, during which time you were caught masturbating on camera. You were subsequently fired from that job after 27 years of working there, and you since then have been on leave from CNN. Do I have all that right?"

"You got it all right, sad to say," Toobin replied.

"OK, let's start there," Camerota said. "To quote Jay Leno, 'What the hell were you thinking?'"

Toobin went on to call the behavior "deeply moronic and indefensible," before saying he didn't know others could see him at the time.

"I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again," he said, outlining the myriad ways he's used the eight-month hiatus to become "a better person," including working at a food bank, going to therapy and writing a book about the Oklahoma City bombing.

Notably, Toobin also made the claim that an internal investigation at The New Yorker did not find any other misconduct over the course of his time there, and said his firing felt like "excessive punishment" — though "that's why they don't ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case," he added.

Toobin's own sordid sexual history resurfaced following the Zoom incident, bringing back to light a 2009 affair in which he was outed for cheating on his wife with — and ultimately impregnating — Casey Greenfield, the daughter of his then-CNN colleague, Jeff Greenfield.

In the end, Toobin said he hoped viewers would welcome him back to the CNN with open arms, but acknowledged that some people would object to his reinstatement as a senior legal analyst.

"I live in the world. I know social media, what the reactions are likely to be," he said. "I hope they will at least be mixed."

By Brett Bachman

Brett Bachman was the Nights/Weekend Editor at Salon.

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