Is Jeffrey Toobin’s career over?

Letitia Denham

For many working in media, Jeffrey Toobin has enjoyed a career to kill for, starting with the fact that he has been a longtime writer for the New Yorker, one of the most enviable journalism gigs on the planet. The former federal prosecutor, 60, also has penned best-selling books on […]

For many working in media, Jeffrey Toobin has enjoyed a career to kill for, starting with the fact that he has been a longtime writer for the New Yorker, one of the most enviable journalism gigs on the planet.

The former federal prosecutor, 60, also has penned best-selling books on the Supreme Court and the O.J. Simpson case, the latter of which was transformed into a groundbreaking, Emmy-winning TV series. He has become known to a wide swath of the American public as CNN’s chief legal analyst, where he’s weighed in on a number number of top legal controversies and trials since 2002.

But now it appears that Toobin may have himself killed that very distinguished, lucrative and enviable career by allegedly being caught masturbating during a Zoom video chat with colleagues from the New Yorker and WNYC radio.

It’s not entirely clear yet how all this went down, who saw what and what Toobin was thinking throughout the episode, but the basic outline of the situation, as described by Vice, has shocked fans and others in the media and provoked calls among #MeToo advocates for Toobin to suffer professional consequences because they say he has committed sexual harassment and not, as he said, “an embarrassingly stupid mistake.”

The incident also unleashed schadenfreude among conservatives and made Toobin America’s favorite social media punchline for more than a day, even after — or because — he said he believed he was not visible on the Zoom camera because he had “muted” it.

Countless jokes and memes went viral, with even accused double-murderer O.J. Simpson getting in a laugh at the journalist, whose brand relies on an image of calm authority and professional integrity.

“Let’s just be clear…there is no way the New Yorker and CNN are going to keep Jeffrey Toobin on the payroll,” tweeted freelance journalist Yashar Ali, who has written a number of stories about alleged sexual impropriety committed by powerful men and women in politics and the media.

“He didn’t get caught on a zoom changing his pants or something…he was masturbating,” Ali said. “They may go through the formality of investigations but he will not be kept on.”

Ali noted that Toobin didn’t make the reportedly common but innocent Zoom error of forgetting to turn off the camera before undressing or going to the bathroom.

Instead, during a virtual work meeting to prepare for upcoming election coverage — with some of the New Yorker’s most renowned writers — Toobin knowingly engaged in a sexual act, according to the Vice report.

It’s possible that Toobin thought he had time to pleasure himself during a 10-minute break in the meeting, according to the Vice report. But even that scenario raises questions about self-control in a journalist who has offered plenty of opinions about the behavior of other people who are caught in embarrassing scandals.

Ali’s tweet also points to the fact that the scandal has proved especially embarrassing for the New Yorker, with reporters contacting the magazine and its famous writers for comment on what they saw and if and how they reacted. A New Yorker spokesperson said the magazine had suspended Toobin while it “investigates the matter,” while CNN said it had granted Toobin “time off while he deals with a personal issue.” It’s clear that both outlets have been left to deal with whether Toobin’s Zoom incident has permanently damaged his credibility.

The scandal also has revived previous reports about the married Toobin’s affair with a younger attorney, Casey Greenfield, which led to a pregnancy in 2008 that Toobin denied in a protracted court case, the New York Times reported. A DNA test eventually proved that Toobin was the father of Greenfield’s son. Toobin already had two daughters with Amy McIntosh, his wife of 34 years.

Evan Nierman, founder of the crisis management and P.R. firm Red Banyan, said it was too soon to say whether Toobin’s act was “a career killer.” He agreed it was “certainly embarrassing, humiliating and mortifying.”

“Was it a terrible decision? Yes, but I’m not sure it should end his career,” said Nierman.

Unlike other journalists who have been suspended or fired in high-profile misconduct scandals, Nierman said people may think that it was a “victimless crime” because Toobin believed his camera was muted and therefore wasn’t deliberately “preying on anyone.” Nierman also said that Toobin’s affair and his public refusal to acknowledge his son seemed more deserving of professional repercussions because it involved “a person walking around the planet who he fathered.”

“If he survived that, he might survive being literally caught with his pants down on a Zoom call,” he said.

Atlantic staff writer Conor Friedersdorf didn’t address the specific question of whether Toobin should lose his job at the New Yorker or CNN. In a Twitter debate about the issue, he agreed that Toobin committed “a transgression” but said people should react with “empathy, politeness and forgiveness,” rather than “punitive mockery” when someone humiliates himself with “a combo of technological error, pandemic circumstances, bad judgment, & bad luck.”

There was large segment of writers and media personalities who didn’t think Toobin made himself a candidate for “empathy, politeness and forgiveness.”

“The View” host, Meghan McCain, blasted Fiedersdorf’s tweet, replying, “The patriarchy is real. Stop trying mansplain away this sicko.”

Jennifer Gunter, a Bay Area ob-gyn, author and blogger, also challenged the view that Toobin simply made a “mistake” and shouldn’t suffer any consequences.

Gunter tweeted that Toobin made a conscious choice to act inappropriately, and to draw his colleagues into this act without their knowledge or consent.

“Masturbating while on a work zoom/call is a choice,” Gunter tweeted. “Toobin was on mute he was listening/watching the other participants and that’s still disgusting & violating. If the urge is so great end the call. He knew that. Always a good time to re up this.”

Gunter also cited a 2017 essay, “The Myth of the Male Bumbler,” which explains a common defense of powerful men who do bad or hurtful things. This questionable excuse, explained writer Lili Loofbourow, is that such men are “bumblers” who are not malicious; instead they accidentally commit bad acts because they are “clueless” and “incompetent.”

Los Angeles-based attorney Adrienne Lawrence, who has authored a book on sexual harassment, put out a pair of tweets that said that Toobin is “NOT the victim here.” She tweeted that what Toobin did “is neither normal nor acceptable.”

“Individuals who engage in sexual harassment should suffer professional consequences,” she said, adding that “Black men are fired for much less and without your sympathy.”

Source Article

Next Post

Academics, video game makers team up in rare collaboration

LONDON (AP) — A study by Oxford University researchers on how playing video games affects mental health used data from video game makers, marking what the authors say is a rare collaboration between academics and the game industry. Lack of transparency from game makers has long been an issue for […]