Author and legal analyst Jeffery Toobin made a surprising return to CNN on Thursday, apologizing for his Zoom mishap and vowing “to be a better person.”
Toobin was reintroduced to CNN viewers by anchor Alisyn Camerota, who had the unenviable task of summing up how Toobin was on a Zoom call with his colleagues at the New Yorker in October when an incident was captured on camera that cost him his job at the magazine.
Toobin was brought on air to discuss a federal court ruling against California laws on assault weapons. But before diving into that issue, Camerota greeted Toobin by saying, “It’s been a while.”
“I feel like we should address what’s happened in the months since we’ve seen you,” Camerota said.
“Everyone took a break for several minutes during which time you were caught masturbating on camera,” an awkwardly smiling Camerota went on to explain about the October Zoom call.
“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? “
Toobin responded: “You’ve got it all right, sad to say.”
Camerota then references the famed 2005 episode of the “Tonight Show” when Jay Leno interviewed Hugh Grant, the actor’s first interview about his humiliating arrest for picking up a prostitute on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
“OK, so let’s start there. To quote Jay Leno, ‘What the hell were you thinking?'” Camerota said.
“Well, obviously, I wasn’t thinking very well or very much, and it was something that was inexplicable to me,” Toobin said.
The author of “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson” explained that he believed he was off camera.
“I think one point — I wouldn’t exactly say ‘in my defense,’ because nothing is really in my defense — I didn’t think I was on the call. I didn’t think other people could see me,” he said.
The legal scholar threw himself at the mercy of viewers, promising to become a better person.
“This was deeply moronic and indefensible, but that is part of the story,” Toobin explained.
“I have spent the seven subsequent months — miserable months in my life, I can certainly confess — trying to be a better person. I’m in therapy, trying to do some public service, working in a food bank which I certainly am going to continue to do.”
Camerota asked Toobin if he understands the impact the incident had on co-workers who witnessed the embarrassing act.
“I’ve spoken to several of my former colleague at the New Yorker about it,” he said. “They were shocked and appalled. I think they realized that this was not intended for them. I think they realized this was something I would immediately regret.”
Toobin said he doesn’t want make a “politician apology” of “I’m sorry if you were offended.”
“That’s exactly what I’ve tried not to do,” he said. “I have tried, and I’m tying now, to say how sorry I am.”
“In all seriousness, above all, I am sorry to my wife and to my family,” Toobin said. “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.”
His situation was mocked in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch when a fortune teller, played by Kate McKinnon, explained in 2019 to Toobin’s adult daughter, played by Heidi Gardner, how Zoom would play a key role in her dad’s misfortune.
Toobin said he felt the New Yorker decision to fire him was “heartbreaking” and “excessive,” but didn’t push the issue on air Thursday. The writer said he’s grateful for his second shot on TV.
“I got a lot to rebuild,” Toobin said. “But I feel very privileged and very lucky that I’m going to be able to try to do that.”