Longtime CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin returned to cable news Thursday, eight months after exposing himself on a Zoom call with his New Yorker colleagues.
A contrite Mr. Toobin appeared with “CNN Newsroom” host Alisyn Camerota, who recapped the October episode in which he was caught masturbating during a break on the Zoom call. He was fired from the magazine, where he had worked for 27 years.
“To quote Jay Leno, ‘what the hell were you thinking?’” asked Ms. Camerota.
Mr. Toobin said he had no defense for his “deeply moronic and indefensible” actions, but that he thought the camera was turned off and nobody could see him.
“It was wrong, it was stupid, and I’m trying to be a better person,” he said.
He said he has spoken to and apologized to his former colleagues at the New Yorker, and that “it was that day that I began apologizing and it’s something that I continue to do.”
“I have tried and I’m trying now to say how sorry I am, sincerely, in all seriousness,” Mr. Toobin said. “Above all, I am sorry to my wife and to my family, 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, and I’m sorry to the people who read my work and who watched me on CNN and who thought I was a better person than this.”
He added that “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.”
During the hiatus, he said he went into therapy, began volunteering at a food bank, which he said he will continue to do, and started working on a new book about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
While the New Yorker dropped him, CNN said that it had granted Mr. Toobin’s request for some time off, which turned into a leave of absence.
“Toobin‘s viewers occasionally inquired about whether he‘d be back on the air, and neither he nor CNN commented,” said the CNN write-up by media analyst Brian Stelter. “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.”
Mr. Toobin said the New Yorker investigation found no other complaints about inappropriate conduct, adding that his firing was “heartbreaking.”
“There is no defense for my conduct. The only issue is what should be the consequences,” he said. “The New Yorker made one decision about the consequences. CNN made a different decision, fortunately, for which I am very grateful.”