Masha Gessen, a staff writer for The New Yorker, outlined in a New York Times article the ill-famed Oct. 15 video chat that spurred Toobin’s downfall.
“It wasn’t a full-out sexual act, but it was much more than a second,” Gessen expressed. “I was really, truly shocked.”
During the digital video meeting, which involved some other staffers from The New Yorker and WNYC public radio personnel, the 60-year-old Toobin “was seen lowering and raising his computer camera, exposing and touching his penis, and motioning an air kiss to someone other than his colleagues,” according to the Times.
Gessen stated that watching the older man pleasure himself on a work call was “traumatic” at the time, and it prompted Mr. Toobin to get mercilessly torn apart on social media, late-night shows, and even hatched the hashtag #MeToobin after Vice put out the scandalous story.
Even accused murderer/football great OJ Simpson wasn’t shy about getting in on the fun. “Daaaaamn, Jeffrey Toobin. At least Pee-wee Herman was in an X-rated movie theater,” Simpson said in a video clip posted to Twitter while sporting a big grin on his face. “I’m just saying.”
The hotshot journalist was suspended and later dismissed from his position at The New Yorker, which he had called his home for nearly 30 years.
The editor for The New Yorker, David Remnick, told staffers in an email, “Dear All, As you may have read in various news reports today, one of our writers, Jeff Toobin, was suspended after an incident on a Zoom call last week,’’ Vice reported.
“Please be assured that we take such matters seriously and that we are looking into it. Best, David,’’ Remnick wrote.
In spite of his long, hard fall from grace, Toobin has maintained his position as senior legal analyst at CNN, where he’s currently on leave, and has a myriad Hollywood projects in development, according to the Times.
“Jeff Toobin has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted,” a network rep for CNN stated.
However, Gessen and other top media commentators, including Gladwell, grumbled that Toobin’s public lashing was undeserved.
“They just assumed he had done something terrible, but never told us what the terrible thing was,” Gladwell, a New Yorker writer, said to the outlet.
“My only feeling — the only way I could explain it — was that Condé Nast had taken an unexpected turn toward traditional Catholic teaching,” he continued, alluding to The New Yorker’s parent company.
Former Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor Tina Brown also commented on Toobin’s pickle.
“I think 27 years of superb reporting and commitment to The New Yorker should have been weighed against an incident that horribly embarrassed the magazine but mostly embarrassed himself,” she noted.
Gessen downplayed Toobin’s slip. “I think it’s tragic that a guy would get fired for really just doing something really stupid.”
“It is the Zoom equivalent of taking an inappropriately long lunch break, having sex during it and getting stumbled upon.”
After the revealing incident in October, Toobin made a statement, saying:
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera,” the married Harvard Law School graduate explained in a confession to Vice.
“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,’’ he added.
“I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”