Jeffrey Toobin returned to CNN as the network’s chief legal analyst on Thursday, eight months after he exposed himself during a Zoom call with colleagues at The New Yorker.
Toobin was interviewed by anchor Alisyn Camerota on “CNN Newsroom” about that incident, and about recent legal news.
“I feel like we should address what’s happened in the months since we’ve seen you,” Camerota said. She summarized the situation and said, “To quote Jay Leno, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’”
Toobin described himself as a “flawed human being who makes mistakes” and said his conduct was “deeply moronic and indefensible.”
He added, “I didn’t think other people could see me,” but he admitted that was no defense.
In the interview, Toobin expressed apologies to his wife and family, to the people who were on the Zoom call that day, and to his colleagues.
“And I’m sorry to the people who read my work and who watched me on CNN who thought I was a better person than this. And so, you know, I 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,” he said.
Toobin said he has spent his “miserable months” off-air “trying to be a better person.”
He mentioned “therapy;” public service like working a food bank; and a forthcoming book about the Oklahoma City bombing.
“I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again,” he said.
Going forward, Toobin will be back on CNN regularly in his chief legal analyst role, a spokesman confirmed. Toobin said he was “incredibly grateful” to continue working at the network.
Toobin was sidelined last October after what happened on the Zoom call became public.
People familiar with the matter said that Toobin exposed himself when he began masturbating during the Zoom, apparently as part of a different video call. The people said that they did not believe he intended his colleagues to witness it.
When Vice heard about the incident and reported it, Toobin admitted that he made an “embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera.”
The New Yorker suspended Toobin and fired him a month later, after its internal investigation had been completed.
Toobin said that The New Yorker did not find any other forms of misconduct by him during its probe of his 27 years at the magazine.
“I was told very specifically by the people involved that they looked at my entire career … and found there had been no complaints about me,” Toobin said. “No issues. … It was just this incident.”
Toobin said that he believed The New Yorker’s decision to fire him was “excessive punishment.”
“But look,” he added, “that’s why they don’t ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case.”
A spokesperson for The New Yorker declined to comment.
CNN took a different approach from The New Yorker’s. The network said at the time that Toobin had asked for some time off “while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted.” This turned into a leave of absence without any clear sign of whether he’d ultimately return.
Toobin’s viewers occasionally inquired about whether he’d be back on the air, and neither he nor CNN commented.
Some anchors and hosts at CNN also expressed a desire to have Toobin back on their shows, since he has been a leading legal voice on television for decades.
Toobin acknowledged Thursday that not everyone would welcome seeing him back on air.
“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.”