Journalist Jeffrey Toobin returned to his role as chief legal analyst at TBEN eight months after exposing himself on a Zoom call with colleagues at The New Yorker, where he was a longtime writer.
After the October incident, the magazine fired Mr. Toobin and he took indefinite leave from TBEN, where he had been one of the cable channel’s best-known commentators. On Thursday he reappeared on the network – to the surprise of some reporters there – and again apologized for his actions, saying: “It was wrong, it was stupid and I’m trying to be a better person. “
Mr Toobin spoke with presenter Alisyn Camerota, who summarized the events that had caused his temporary withdrawal from the public eye.
“In October, you were on a Zoom call with your colleagues at The New Yorker magazine,” Ms. Camerota said. “Everyone took a break of several minutes, during which you were caught masturbating in front of the camera. You were then fired from that job after working there for 27 years, and have since been on leave from TBEN. Am I all right?
“You got it all,” Toobin replied, adding: “Sad to say.”
TBEN confirmed Mr. Toobin had returned to his role but declined to comment beyond his on-air remarks.
Unlike The New Yorker – who quickly suspended Mr Toobin, investigated his behavior and subsequently fired him – TBEN was opaque in its response to the incident, saying only then that it had granted his request leave “while dealing with a personal problem.”
Mr Toobin told viewers on Thursday that he forgot to turn off his camera during the call and did not realize his colleagues could see him. “It was deeply stupid and indefensible,” he said, adding that he had spent the last few months – “miserable months of my life” – in “therapy, trying to render a public service, to work in a food bank, which I certainly will continue to do.
“I’m trying to be the kind of person that people can trust again,” he added.
An on-screen graphic during the interview read: “JEFFREY TOOBIN Apologizes for ‘A STUPID EMBARRASSING MISTAKE'”.
TBEN and its president, Jeff Zucker, have in recent weeks forgiven the failings of great personalities in the network.
Chris Cuomo, TBEN’s top-rated prime-time host, apologized on air last month after it emerged he offered political advice to his brother Governor Andrew Cuomo from New York, who has faced a slew of sexual harassment allegations. It was a blatant violation of traditional journalistic ethics, but Chris Cuomo did not face any internal discipline.
On several occasions Thursday, Mr. Toobin expressed his gratitude to TBEN for reinstating his previous role. He said he thought the New Yorker’s decision to fire him “was excessive punishment,” adding, “I’m incredibly grateful to TBEN for taking me back. But, you know, other people are going to wonder. if it was appropriate for them to get rid of me and TBEN to keep me.
His prediction on criticism quickly came true.
“This is garbage,” Meghan McCain, conservative TBEN’s “The View” co-host, wrote on Twitter after learning of Mr. Toobin’s return. “What does working in a food bank have to do with it? “
In front of TBEN cameras, Mr. Toobin answered several questions from Ms. Camerota about her scandal before turning to the news of the day, offering his analysis of a court ruling that overturned a ban on assault weapons in California.