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Opinion Jeffrey Toobin fired by the New Yorker

The New Yorker has parted ways with longtime staff writer Jeffrey Toobin after he reportedly exposed himself during a Zoom conference last month. He had already been on suspension and is also on leave from CNN, where he has been a legal commentator. (Charles Dharapak, AP/File)

The New Yorker has fired Jeffrey Toobin, longtime reporter of deep-dive features on the law, over an October incident in which he exposed himself during a Zoom meeting. The action caps off Toobin’s suspension over the incident. “As a result of our investigation, Jeffrey Toobin is no longer affiliated with the company,” said a New Yorker spokesperson in a statement.

Toobin posted a tweet about the situation:

Asked for an interview, Toobin declined, indicating that he had nothing to add to his tweet.

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In a memo to staffers obtained by the Daily Beast, Condé Nast chief people officer Stan Duncan wrote, “I want to assure everyone that we take workplace matters seriously. We are committed to fostering an environment where everyone feels respected and upholds our standards of conduct.”

Vice reported that Toobin took part in an October Zoom meeting with staffers from the New Yorker and WNYC. There was an election “simulation” involving key New Yorker staffers representing various players in the political drama. Toobin was playing the role of the courts, according to Vice. Two sources said that they had seen Toobin masturbating.

In replying to the reports, Toobin didn’t deny the alleged conduct. “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers,” Toobin told Vice at the time. “I believed I was not visible on Zoom. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.” When asked by the Erik Wemple Blog via text what he was doing, Toobin didn’t describe the activity, saying merely, “I thought the zoom camera was off.”

CNN issued this statement at the time: “Jeff Toobin has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted.” Asked for its reaction to Toobin’s firing, CNN has not yet responded with a statement.

The departure of Toobin from the New Yorker is a significant media moment. A graduate of Harvard and Harvard Law, Toobin worked as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn in the early 1990s and, later, as a legal analyst for ABC News. Having joined the New Yorker in 1993, Toobin put his stamp on some of the country’s most high-profile legal clashes, including the O.J. Simpson case, the Elian Gonzalez fight and the Michael Jackson child molestation trial.

He moved from ABC to CNN in 2002. Since the Zoom incident came to light, Toobin has been absent from CNN airwaves, though his expertise hovers over the election and its aftermath. Surely the longtime legal eagle would have something to say about the various frivolous legal actions filed by the Trump campaign alleging irregularities in the Nov. 3 election. Over the Trump years, Toobin has been an outspoken voice on the president’s abuse of executive power, the work of Attorney General William P. Barr and the investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.

He also showed an admirable willingness to examine his past work, as when he openly expressed regret over how he’d covered the 2016 presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

Now, however, Toobin has stacked extraordinary misconduct on top of a great deal of exemplary work. Such a lapse, indeed, that the New Yorker decided it could no longer square his employment with a respectful workplace. Don’t be surprised if CNN reaches the same endpoint. His value as a commentator, after all, flows from his judgment, a commodity now in tatters.

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