Jeffrey Toobin’s firing from The New Yorker this week over his now-infamous masturbation incident has only served to raise new questions over why the process took so darned long.
The prolific writer and legal analyst was officially canned from his high-profile magazine gig on Wednesday following a nearly one-month review over an embarrassing Zoom call last month that had him pleasuring himself in front of his colleagues.
Toobin remains on leave from his on-air legal analyst job at CNN, which didn’t return a request for comment on Thursday about his future there.
But its the extended process at Conde Nast, which publishes The New Yorker, that has insiders so puzzled — especially as he was caught red-handed.
“It shouldn’t have taken very long to investigate the original incident since it was taped,” said a source with knowledge of the situation.
The timeline is now raising questions internally as to whether there were other issues that needed addressing. “Why did it take over three weeks [to fire him]? Were there other incidents?” this person said.
Toobin’s sexual antics have made headlines before, most notably in 2009 when it emerged that he had fathered a love child with Casey Greenfield, daughter of political pundit Jeff Greenfield and an aspiring law student who had been working as a fact checker at Conde Nast-owned Glamour.
The married writer and father initially denied that the baby was his, but fessed up after taking a court-ordered DNA test.
Efforts to reach Toobin were unsuccessful. But he has called the latest incident “an embarrassingly stupid mistake.” He has said he wasn’t trying to expose himself intentionally and had believed he was “off-camera” at the time.
Sources say Toobin flashed his colleagues while role-playing the election for a radio program. He had been assigned the role of “the courts,” which was less active than other roles, including for President Trump to Joe Biden, since the election would have to play out with a Trump loss before courts got involved.
Toobin therefore had been sidelined for much of the time and was forced to listen while others filled up several hours of roll playing. “Obviously, he was ignored and bored,” a source said.
That’s when he briefly — for under a minute — turned the camera on himself in the midst of a very private moment, this person explained. After less than a minute, his screen went dark.
Another source said Toobin may have only exposed himself briefly because a colleague had alerted him via text message to what was on screen after someone on the call who saw the embarrassing incident texted that person.
In announcing Toobin’s firing on Wednesday, Conde Nast’s chief people officer Stan Duncan sought to assure everyone that it takes such matters seriously. “We are committed to fostering an environment where everyone feels respected and upholds our standards of conduct,” the letter said.
But some legal experts agreed that the termination seemed drawn out.
“The firing should have been a ‘knee jerk’ decision lasting two minutes of deliberation,” Jonathan Sack, a labor attorney at Sack & Sack said.
“I presume management wanted to make sure that Toobin’s contract has a ‘cause’ definition that includes contemplating a firing for literally ‘jerking off’ on the job,” Sack said of the multi-week review. “Perhaps that required a legal opinion, but to me, this decision was a long time coming and was a no-brainer.”
A media executive, however, speculated that Conde Nast brass “may have just wanted to hit the pause button and count to ten and make sure the punishment fit the crime.”
Toobin could take a big financial hit as a result. He had been widely expected to write another book about a contested presidential election. His book on the 2000 election, “Too Close to Call,” was a bestseller.
That’s not to say he couldn’t revive his career, especially if CNN chooses to keep him on. But for now he’s the butt of the joke.
“Stand tall and keep your resolve rock hard, and I’m sure you’ll be able to rub out the competition to finish first,” one “supporter” wrote to Toobin after he confirmed his firing on Twitter. “Don’t beat yourself over this–you’re a jack of all trades and there are many different strokes for many different folks.”