Jeffrey Toobin’s less-than-triumphant return to the CNN airwaves this week after a months-long leave of absence due to a Zoom masturbation scandal was greeted with shock, anger and disgust by observers.
Toobin, CNN’s longtime chief legal analyst, sheepishly apologized Thursday for the October incident that led to his firing from The New Yorker and his disappearance from the cable network in an cringeworthy segment with anchor Alisyn Camerota.
“I am a flawed human being that makes mistakes … It was wrong, it was stupid and I’m trying to be a better person,” Toobin said at one point.
Many critics expressed doubt that the network would give a similar second chance to a conservative contributor or female employee caught doing what Toobin did.
“It says a lot about the network’s values that it would choose to rehire a man who masturbated on a Zoom call in front of his colleagues,” tweeted Independent Women’s Forum senior policy analyst Kelsey Bolar Friday. “[W]ould the same happen if it were a woman? Or, if his name were Rick Santorum? Of course not.”
Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania and two-time presidential candidate, was canned as a CNN analyst last month over remarks he made about Native Americans at a Young America’s Foundation event.
Santorum has repeatedly claimed he misspoke when he commented that “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture” and meant to refer to the founding of the United States.
OutKick founder and conservative radio host Clay Travis claimed on Twitter Friday that “CNN banned me from their network for saying I believed in the first amendment and boobs, but they just rehired a guy caught masturbating on a Zoom call and had him discuss it live on air.”
“You can do absolutely ANYTHING at CNN and not be fired if you’re liberal enough,” said “The View” co-host Meghan McCain in a since-deleted tweet that was screencapped by The Daily Caller.
“This is garbage,” McCain wrote in a tweet that stayed up. “Why does the media protect these old white male dinosaurs in this industry? No woman on PLANET EARTH would be welcomed back on network tv after being caught masturbating in front of her colleagues.”
“There is not a woman alive who could have done anything close to what Jeffrey Toobin did (not that one would) and kept her job,” agreed former Fox News and NBC News host Megyn Kelly. “What a disgusting, incestuous boys’ club. So damned tired of it.”
Other Twitter users noted with disgust that Camerota, not Toobin, was forced to recount the dirty details of the incident to viewers.
“In October, you were on a Zoom call with your colleagues from The New Yorker magazine,” Camerota recited, glancing between Toobin and the camera. “Everyone took a break for several minutes, during which time you were caught masturbating on camera. 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?”
“Um, you’ve got it all right,” Toobin responded.
“It’s humiliating enough for a woman to be conducting Toobin’s first interview after he was caught masturbating on a work zoom, but to make her, not him, detail the ordeal for an audience is disgraceful,” tweeted Natalie Johnson, the communications director for Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC).
Still others compared CNN’s rehabilitation of Toobin to the network’s failure to discipline prime-time host Chris Cuomo, despite recent revelations that he advised his older brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to respond to a series of sexual misconduct allegations.
“Bringing back and re-featuring Jeffrey Toobin is the worst thing that CNN has done since … I would say Chris Cuomo helping his brother Andrew Cuomo with the spin response to his sexual harassment accusations, but that was just late last month,” tweeted National Review political correspondent Jim Geraghty.
“Who wanted Toobin back on air? No one was clamoring for it, calling for it, protesting his departure, or demanding his return,” Geraghty wrote in an accompanying column. “Toobin’s been with CNN since 2002, and his departure should have opened up opportunities for some other lawyer who can explain legal concepts in layman’s terms live on television. If anyone in the media world argued that Toobin had gotten a raw deal, they did so exceptionally quietly.”
Responding to a report from CNN media analyst Brian Stelter that some anchors and hosts wanted Toobin back on the air, Geraghty challenged Stelter to “name them.”
“I really want to know which CNN program hosts deemed Jeffrey Toobin so sterling a legal analyst that his actions should be forgiven and quickly forgotten,” Geraghty wrote. “Which CNN hosts felt Toobin could talk for a few minutes about law cases better than anyone else out there, including all of the women and minority options?”
A CNN spokesperson confirmed to the network Thursday that Toobin would return to his usual chief legal analyst role.