The career of Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker and CNN is hanging in the balance after the famous journalist was reportedly seen masturbating on a Zoom call with colleagues, sources told Media Ink.
The New Yorker — where Toobin has been a legal correspondent for decades, writing on everything from the O.J. Simpson trial to the Trump-Ukraine controversy — suspended the 60-year-old scribe on Monday after a report in Vice that he was seen masturbating toward the end of a Zoom call last Thursday.
One former staffer at the magazine said she believes his 25-year career will come to an end over the incident.
“How do you go back and look your colleagues in the eye?” she said. “When you end up on the front page of the New York Post, it’s bad.”
But another insider said that while the cringeworthy incident showed poor judgment, its main victim was Toobin himself and his family, with perhaps minor damage to the magazine’s reputation.
“The punishment has to fit the crime,” said one media executive. “Has the public humiliation been enough?”
It’s a sticky situation for Toobin’s boss at the New Yorker, editor-in-chief David Remnick. Both were hired as writers in the early ’90s and Remnick succeeded Tina Brown as E-I-C in 1998.
“Please be assured that we take such matters seriously and that we are looking into it,’’ Remnick wrote in a terse memo to staffers on Monday.
The magazine has declined further comment pending an internal investigation, and CNN said only that their star legal analyst had taken leave to “deal with a personal issue.”
A former Harvard-trained assistant US Attorney, Toobin has become a best-selling author in addition to his gigs at the New Yorker and CNN. One of his books, “The Run of His Life,” about the O. J. Simpson murder trial, inspired the award-winning 2016 FX series, “The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”.
“Damn, Jeffrey Toobin. At least Pee Wee Herman was in an X-rated movie theater,” Simpson tweeted on Monday.
Indeed, insiders were debating this week whether Toobin will suffer the fate of Pee Wee Herman creator Paul Rubens, whose career capsized after he was arrested on lewdness charges in a movie theater in 1991.
“He’s a talented writer and what he did was stupid, but it’s not like Harvey Weinstein or Les Moonves,” opined one supporter.
Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual misconduct. Moonves was forced from the top of CBS after facing claims of long term sexual harassment. Both denied the charges.
But in the age of #MeToo, some speculated that the younger rank and file may do more to determine Toobin’s fate than Remnick and Roger Lynch, the CEO of Conde Nast, the parent company of the New Yorker.
“It might not be in the hands of the senior executives at Conde Nast,” said one source. “It might be in the hands of the junior people.”
It won’t help that Conde Nast has been under fire for its lack of diversity recently and the editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit, Adam Rapoport, stepped down recently when an old photo of him wearing brown face surfaced.
“It depends on how agitated the employees are,” said one executive.
The closest recent parallel in the media world may be former Hearst Magazines president Troy Young, who was forced to resign in late July after an explosive New York Times story reported on lewd remarks that he was alleged to have made over the course of his career at the publisher of Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping.
Initially, sources said top brass at Hearst were thinking about reprimanding Young and allowing him keep his job. But after younger staffers, especially women, expressed outrage, he was gone within 24 hours.
“If [Toobin] is viewed as a privileged white guy from Harvard, doing whatever the f–k he wants and getting away it, it might force their hand,” said one source.
And already #MeToobin was trending.
“He’s a privileged, white man who decided to pleasure himself at work to the detriment of his colleagues,” legal personality Adrienne Lazarus tweeted on Tuesday. “Black men are fired for much less and without your sympathy. If it disturbs you to see Toobin suffer actual consequences, do check yourself.”
CNN was likewise under fire.
“@CNN will hunt down grandmothers who post GIFs they don’t like,” one critic tweeted. “But they will play defense for a colleague whose conduct is really indefensible.”
For Toobin, it not the first time he has faced public embarrassment. Reports from over a decade ago said he conducted a long-term affair with Casey Greenfield, who he met while she was a fact checker at Conde Nast’s “Glamour” while taking a break from law school.
Greenfield, who eventually became a lawyer, was said to have resisted pressure from Toobin in 2008 and in 2009 gave birth to a baby boy. After initially denying he was the father Toobin agreed to pay child support after a DNA test came back positive.
Toobin’s wife, Amy McIntosh, his former college sweetheart, separated from him at the time, but the two have since reconciled.