Somehow, eight months have passed since the great Zoom Dick Incident of 2020, in which New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin exposed himself to a handful of his colleagues during an election simulation. (He played “the courts.”) After The New Yorker fired him in November, Mr. Zoom Dick kept quiet, almost eerily so. Perhaps you are wondering — the consequences for taking your penis out of your pants in a work setting, are they lasting? What has become of Toobin? Where is he now?
Back on CNN, as of today. Apparently, the writer has resumed his role as the network’s chief legal analyst, appearing alongside co-host Alisyn Camerota on Thursday afternoon. When Camerota asked him to explain himself and why he had suddenly reappeared on the nation’s radar, he reportedly offered:
“Nothing is really in my defense. This was deeply moronic and indefensible … It was wrong, it was stupid, and I’m trying to be a better person.”
His words, not mine! But yes, the Zoom Dick Incident is a hard one to justify. Recall, Toobin allegedly tilted his computer camera toward his crotch while his co-workers peeled off into breakout rooms. Witnesses to the ZDI believed Toobin to be on a second, sexier call; when they reentered the main chat, they said, they found “the courts” jerking off. At the time, Toobin apologized, saying he “thought [he] had muted the Zoom video” and become invisible to his fellow election simulators. Mortifying, to say the least. But however humiliating the circumstances, we’re still talking about masturbating on a work call, something that feels difficult to do on accident.
Still, CNN sounds sympathetic to Toobin’s plight: “I don’t think that one terrible mistake should define a person or ruin their employment opportunities for life,” even if the mistake is “wildly embarrassing,” one unnamed network executive told the Washington Post. And please keep in mind, CNN only ever said that it had given Toobin time off “while he deals with a personal issue,” not that it had let him go. So although the “mistake” would seem to check some boxes for sexual harassment, maybe we should have seen Toobin’s return coming all along.
Anyway, you will be pleased to learn that Toobin’s sabbatical was both productive and introspective: “I have spent the seven subsequent months — miserable months — in my life trying to be a better person,” he told Camerota and the viewers at home. “In therapy, trying to do some public service, working in a food bank, working on a new book. I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again.”