CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin returned to the network on Thursday, marking his return to TV eight months after he exposed himself during a Zoom call with colleagues from The New Yorker last year. Appearing for a candid discussion with anchor Alisyn Camerota, Toobin addressed the controversy, with Camerota beginning the segment by asking, "to quote Jay Leno, 'What the hell were you thinking?'"
Describing himself as a "flawed human being who makes mistakes" and calling his behavior "deeply moronic and indefensible," Toobin said, "obviously I wasn't thinking very well or very much. It was something that was inexplicable to me." The scandal surrounding Toobin broke in October after he was seen masturbating during a Zoom call with his colleagues that was meant to be a simulation of the then-upcoming presidential election. Speaking of the incident Thursday, Toobin said he "didn't think other people could see me" as he "thought that I had turned off the Zoom call," though he admitted, "that’s not a defense."
—@AlisynCamerota: “You were caught masturbating on camera … to quote Jay Leno, ‘What the hell were you thinking?'” @JeffreyToobin says he “wasn’t thinking” and apologizes to his family, those on Zoom call, and CNN colleagues. He says he's working to be a better person. pic.twitter.com/XjH0B3qpMA— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) June 10, 2021
Toobin said that following the incident, he immediately began apologizing to his colleagues. He told Camerota, "They were shocked and appalled. I think they realized that this was not intended for them. I think they realized that this was something that I would immediately regret, as I certainly did." He added, "It was that day that I began apologizing. And that is something that I have tried to continue to do, both publicly and privately."
Vice first reported on the incident in October. After the scandal broke, Toobin took a leave of absence from CNN; The New Yorker, where he had worked as a staff writer since 1993, suspended him. Following an investigation, Stan Duncan, chief people officer at Condé Nast, announced in a memo that Toobin "is no longer affiliated with our company." Toobin said Thursday that the investigation "found there had been no complaints about me" aside from the Zoom call incident and said he believes his firing was "excessive punishment. But look, that's why they don't ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case." He added that he is "grateful to CNN for taking me back."
Since the scandal, Toobin said he has spent his "miserable months" off-air "trying to be a better person." He revealed that he has since begun volunteering at a food bank and is working on a book about the Oklahoma City bombing. He also mentioned "therapy." Toobin, who said he was "trying now to say how sorry I am, sincerely," added that he is "trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again."