New Yorker Suspends Jeffrey Toobin for Masturbating on Zoom Call

The call was an election simulation featuring New Yorker all-stars. Toobin apologized for the "embarrassingly stupid mistake."
October 19, 2020, 6:07pm
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Image: Getty Images

The New Yorker has suspended reporter Jeffrey Toobin for masturbating on a Zoom video chat between members of the New Yorker and WNYC radio last week. Toobin says he did not realize his video was on.

“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers,” Toobin told Motherboard.

“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.

Two people who were on the call told VICE separately that the call was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker's biggest stars: Jane Mayer was playing establishment Republicans; Evan Osnos was Joe Biden, Jelani Cobb was establishment Democrats, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Andrew Marantz was the far right, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats, Dexter Filkins was the military, and Jeffrey Toobin playing the courts. There were also a handful of other producers on the call from the New Yorker and WNYC.

Both people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, noted that it was unclear how much each person saw, but both said that they saw Toobin jerking off. The two sources described a juncture in the election simulation when there was a strategy session, and the Democrats and Republicans went into their respective break out rooms for about 10 minutes. At this point, they said, it seemed like Toobin was on a second video call. The sources said that when the groups returned from their break out rooms, Toobin lowered the camera. The people on the call said they could see Toobin touching his penis. Toobin then left the call. Moments later, he called back in, seemingly unaware of what his colleagues had been able to see, and the simulation continued.

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New Yorker spokesperson Natalie Raabe said: “Jeffrey Toobin has been suspended while we investigate the matter.”

Toobin’s Conde Nast email has been disabled and he has not tweeted since October 13. He did, however, appear on CNN, where he is the network’s chief legal analyst, on Saturday. “Jeff Toobin has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted,” CNN said in a statement.

The New Yorker editor David Remnick wrote in an email to all New Yorker staffers: “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. Please be assured that we take such matters seriously and that we are looking into it. Best, David.”

A source told Motherboard that WNYC informed its staff on Monday that Toobin can no longer be booked on its shows, or work with WNYC in any other professional capacity.

Doubleday, an imprint of Random House, which published Toobin’s latest book did not respond to emails. Neither did Toobin’s literary agent Kristine Dahl nor Greater Talent Network, which represents Toobin. WNYC declined to comment.

Joseph Cox contributed reporting.

This piece has been updated with more detail about the call and WNYC. The headline has been updated to reflect that Toobin was masturbating.