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The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin exposed himself on a Zoom call. He was rightly suspended.

The staff writer suspension has sparked a conversation online about consent and public indecency in the age of virtual meetings.

The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin exposed himself on a Zoom call. He was rightly suspended.
Image Source: SAG-AFTRA Foundation's Conversations with Tom Brokaw. NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 07. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for SAG-AFTRA Foundation)

Staff writer and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who works with The New Yorker as well as CNN, has been suspended from the magazine. During a Zoom call with employees of The New Yorker and WNYC radio, he exposed himself, two people familiar with the call asserted. The writer has since claimed in a statement that he made "an embarrassingly stupid mistake," The New York Times reports. His dismissal prompted a discussion online about consent and public indecency in the age of the Coronavirus. While several people have defended Toobin, it is evident that his actions were indeed inexcusable.



"I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera," Toobin affirmed. "I apologize to my wife, family, friends, and co-workers." The New Yorker and WNYC produce a podcast together. Staff writers from both outlets were on a video call prepping for election night coverage when there was a pause for breakout discussions. During the pause, the writer switched to a second call and exposed himself. The latter call was "the video-call equivalent of phone sex," the two anonymous informants shared. Toobin stated, "I thought I had muted the Zoom video. I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me." He refused to comment on the nature of the second call.



Masha Gessen, a New Yorker writer who was also on the call at the time, said, "I am quite sure that Toobin didn’t realize that the people on the New Yorker call could see him. I suspect he thought that when the breakout rooms started, he was disconnected and he didn’t realize we’d all returned to a live camera." While the writer exposed himself, the others simply continued as if nothing were wrong. When he rejoined the call, it did not seem like he knew he had been seen. The New Yorker has since suspended Toobin while the publication further investigates the matter. In addition to this, CNN confirmed that Toobin "has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue," which they have granted.



When news of the incident broke, folks took to the internet to share their thoughts. For instance, The Penn Graduate School of Education's Jonathan Zimmerman wrote in an op-ed, "Jeffrey Toobin’s history of bad sexual judgment is really about our unease with masturbation. But I’m guessing you do the same, dear reader. Maybe you should stop feeling weird and guilty about that." However, the truth is that several folks rushed to defend the writer simply because they do not have a basic understanding of consent. It is also worth pointing out that others who lack the privilege he has as a straight, White, cis man would never be given the same level of tolerance. We would not be rationalizing their actions, and we should not be rationalizing his either.



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