On Thursday, before moving on to discuss a California judge’s ruling overturning an assault-weapons ban and other legal issues, Camerota asked Toobin to address the fallout again.
“Nothing is really in my defense,” Toobin said. “ … This was deeply moronic and indefensible. … It was wrong, it was stupid, and I’m trying to be a better person.”
The October incident immediately upended Toobin’s long career in journalism. The New Yorker suspended him. The next month, an executive at the company that owns the magazine announced that Toobin would not be returning, following an investigation into his behavior. On Twitter, Toobin said he was “fired.”
But his other employer, CNN, told reporters that he had asked for “some time off while he deals with a personal issue” — a request the network granted.
The network then remained silent about Toobin’s status for months, until now.
Describing his absence from TV, Toobin told viewers: “I have spent the seven subsequent months — miserable months — in my life . . . trying to be a better person. I’m in therapy, trying to do some public service, working in a food bank . . . working on a new book. . . . But I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again.”
He said he thought that the magazine’s decision to fire him was “an excessive punishment,” but acknowledged: “That is why they don’t ask the criminal to be the judge in his own case.”
“I’m incredibly grateful for CNN for taking me back,” he said. “Other people are going to weigh in about whether it was appropriate for them to get rid of me, and for CNN to keep me.”
Toobin said he has spoken with and apologized to his former colleagues at the New Yorker who witnessed the incident. “They were shocked and appalled,” he said. But, he added, “they realized that this was not intended for them. They realized that this was something I would immediately regret.”
Before his appearance on CNN, Toobin seemed to be in a sort of indefinite limbo. He had continued listing CNN as an employer on Twitter and on LinkedIn, a platform where he noted the end of his New Yorker role. Fox News reported that Toobin tweeted and then deleted a message in January saying, “I’ll be back.” But he has been quiet besides that.
Requesting anonymity to speak frankly, a network executive told The Washington Post that enough time had passed since the incident, and Toobin deserved a second chance.
“I don’t think that one terrible mistake should define a person or ruin their employment opportunities for life,” the executive said, noting that Toobin had already been humiliated and mocked for a “wildly embarrassing” but “unintentional” mistake.
The executive said the network investigated the incident before allowing Toobin to return — even though it occurred at the New Yorker, not CNN — and that Toobin fully cooperated with that probe.
Critics of CNN have seized on the network’s apparent leniency toward Toobin over the past seven months, particularly after the decision to fire commentator Rick Santorum last month for making derogatory comments about Native American culture.
“Crazy how CNN fired Rick Santorum but Jeffrey Toobin acted totally inappropriately in front of female colleagues on a Zoom call and he’s still on staff,” one Twitter user noted. The website of CNN rival Fox News has also prominently reported on Toobin’s absence and the network’s months-long silence.
Camerota said she was happy to have Toobin back. “Many of us really have missed having your legal analysis to guide us on our programs,” she told him on the segment. “So, let me be the first to welcome you back.”
“It is good to be back,” Toobin replied. “And, I hope to be a better person, off-camera as well as on camera.” But he acknowledged that his return might not be universally welcomed. “I live in the world,” he said. “I know social media. I know what the reactions are likely to be. I hope they will at least be mixed.”