'Second Chance': New York Times Confirms CNN Hasn't Fired Toobin, Wants to Keep Him

December 15th, 2020 7:30 PM

The New York Times posted an article on "The Undoing of Jeffrey Toobin" on Tuesday by reporters Katherine Rosman and Jacob Bernstein. The main takeaway is that CNN executives are still "unwilling to discuss his future," which means "he's not fired." A spokeswoman confirmed Toobin was still CNN's chief legal analyst, "but would not comment further."

Three CNN employees say that CNN boss Jeff Zucker "is a big fan of Mr. Toobin’s and a believer in second chances. But Mr. Zucker may be leaving CNN in 2021, making his opinion perhaps irrelevant." Toobin's offense is described: 

While working on a podcast about the presidential election for WNYC and The New Yorker with some of the magazine’s other well-known journalists, including Jane Mayer and ["non-binary"] Masha Gessen, he was seen lowering and raising his computer camera, exposing and touching his penis, and motioning an air kiss to someone other than his colleagues, Mx. Gessen said. The magazine suspended Mr. Toobin that day and executives began an investigation.

“It wasn’t a full-out sexual act, but it was much more than a second,” Mx. Gessen said. “I was really, truly shocked.”

The Times attempted to downplay the offense as something anyone might do. " For as many people were excoriating Mr. Toobin for lewd and inappropriate behavior in a virtual workplace, others were thinking, or even saying, 'there but for the grace of God go I,' acutely conscious of all the private or potentially embarrassing moments they’d stolen in this odd new zone where we now meet our colleagues."

The story raised a few eyebrows when discussing his mother, journalist Marlene Sanders: 

In a 2015 interview with The Times after her death, Mr. Toobin said he was raised knowing women could be both mothers and professionals: “This was her life. She had a job and she traveled and she had a son she loved.”

She actually had two sons. Mr. Toobin’s younger brother, Mark, was born in 1967 with Down syndrome and lived away from the family, most recently in a group home in Connecticut. Mark was not mentioned in Ms. Sanders’s Times obituary.

Why not? Because Toobin's family apparently wanted it hidden. 

The Times mentioned that Toobin had a son named Rory from an extramarital affair with Casey Greenfield, the daughter of journalist Jeff Greenfield. It did not mention Toobin offered to pay for an abortion. 

The Times article concluded with a lineup of people now feeling he's being unfairly punished -- not the usual Times approach to, say, Brett Kavanaugh. 

Several of Mr. Toobin’s longtime associates feel he was unfairly punished. “You are a fine person and a terrific journalist and did nothing here to hurt anyone outside of yourself and your family,” Jonathan Alter, a friend of Mr. Toobin’s for 40 years, tweeted after Mr. Toobin announced his exit from The New Yorker.

“I don’t like Twitter mobs, and I don’t like bullies from the left or the right taking part in cancel culture,” Mr. Alter said later by phone. “I have trouble with the conflation of offenses. I don’t put Al Franken in the same category as Harvey Weinstein.”

Ms. [Tina] Brown, who worked with Mr. Weinstein for years after she left The New Yorker, agreed. “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 said.

Malcolm Gladwell, one of the magazine’s best known contributors, said in an interview: “I read the Condé Nast news release, and I was puzzled because I couldn’t find any intellectual justification for what they were doing. They just assumed he had done something terrible, but never told us what the terrible thing was. And my only feeling — the only way I could explain it — was that Condé Nast had taken an unexpected turn toward traditional Catholic teaching.” (Mr. Gladwell then took out his Bible and read to a reporter an allegory from Genesis 38 in which God strikes down a man for succumbing to the sin of self-gratification.)

Even Mx. Gessen, who initially found the incident “traumatic,” said they now feel sympathy for Mr. Toobin. “I think it’s tragic that a guy would get fired for really just doing something really stupid,” they said. “It is the Zoom equivalent of taking an inappropriately long lunch break, having sex during it and getting stumbled upon.”

The last paragraph wasn't as supportive: 

But Mr. Toobin may not want anyone’s pity. Amid the 2018 Supreme Court confirmation process for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the journalist scoffed on CNN at Republicans who said white men, as a demographic, were being mistreated. “Garbage,” Mr. Toobin said. “All this whining about the poor plight of white men is ridiculous.”