Tue. Jun 15th, 2021

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

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

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

Toobin appeared with anchor Alisyn Camerota, who opened the segment by asking the former Justice Department lawyer 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 that was inexplicable to me,” Toobin, responded.

Toobin was seen masturbating during an October Zoom call with his co-workers that was supposed to be a simulation of the then-upcoming presidential election. Some of the individuals on the call have said they did not believe that Toobin meant for his colleagues to see him, a point that Toobin reiterated Thursday.

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

Toobin was fired by The New Yorker after the incident, bringing to a close a 27-year career at the magazine. At the time, CNN said that Toobin asked for time off and the media outlet granted it.

Toobin said Thursday he believed his firing from the magazine was excessive but noted, “I am the worst person to ask that question.”

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

Toobin said that he has used the past months to try to become a better person, noting that he had been volunteering at a food bank, working on a book about the Oklahoma City bombing, and going to therapy.

His return to the news network comes at a time when both print and broadcast media are grappling with how to address inappropriate employee comments and behavior, especially in cases of actions not directly related to work.

The broader reckoning within the industry has also drawn criticism of a double standard, with high-profile journalists seeing relatively little discipline for perceived ethical breaches, while some younger employees have faced termination for offenses that are more ambiguous.

Toobin’s comeback also comes shortly after CNN fired another high-profile contributor, former GOP Sen. Rick Santorum. Santorum came under fire from Native American groups after delivering an April speech in which he said that the United States “birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here.”

“I mean, yes, we have Native Americans,” Santorum said. “But candidly, that — there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

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

“If they don’t like what I’m saying or what I’m doing, they have the right to fire me. I have no animus at all toward CNN,” he added.

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