Today’s commentary deals with a story that has nothing to do with politics or important issues. But it is just too mind-boggling to take a pass on. It is about sexual gratification. Now that I have your interest …
Let me first say that I am by far no prude – and normally I fully support the rights of people to do as they please in private. That includes many things some folks see as perverted or immoral. As long as the please is not hurtful or harmful to others – or oneself – I am okay with it.
CNN announced that chief political analyst, Jeffery Toobin, will be returning to work after being suspended since last October. And why, you may ask, was he suspended? Allow me to bring you up to date.
Toobin was on a Zoom conference call with colleagues from The New Yorker – where he was also a columnist — when he apparently removed his private member and began to … well you know what. In other words, he was caught rosie handed in an act of auto-erotica. It has never been revealed whether he was motivated by boredom or aroused by one of the other participants. I guess we will never know.
Even a person with libertine values has to wonder what ever would motivate a person to do such a thing. Being caught on camera is only incidental. Why was he moved to self-gratification while on a business conference call?
Toobin has apologized, of course. He claims that he did not realize that his computer cam was on at the time. As a person with limited technical facility when it comes to the computer and the Internet, I can understand his technical problem. But the question posed in the previous paragraph still stands.
We can recall another cyber scandal that arose when former Congressman Anthony Wiener accidentally sent his X-rated images to his entire email list. For all the trouble Wiener got into with his cyber-sex activities, at least he was not carrying on during business communications – at least as far as we know.
In a back-to-work interview with Alisyn Camerota, Toobin admitted to being a “flawed human being who makes mistakes.” He described his conduct as “deeply moronic and indefensible.” Touché.
In addition to his apology to his wife, family, CNN, the folks on his Zoom conference and the world-at-large, Toobin has gone into therapy. That would suggest that the incident is part of a much broader sexual addiction. That makes sense. It is not likely he would have – or even could have – done what he did if he did not have at least a threshold level of sexual obsession.
The greater issue is not what he did. Had he been a salesman for a shoe company, it would not have drawn much public attention. But Toobin is a highly paid millionaire ($10 million, to be precise) with a job that requires high levels of credibility. In news media, image and integrity is everything.
So, should CNN have reinstated Toobin?
If it were my decision, I would not. It is going to be difficult to take him seriously. Whenever he appears on the screen, he will be known as the Zoom-bater. It is the same problem MSNBC had with “Eleventh Hour” host Bryan Williams. He was booted from the prime-time NBC anchor position when it was revealed that he made up a number of his reports. He was suspended until the station resurrected him for the junior network’s late-night show. I cannot watch “Eleventh Hour” with any degree of credibility as long as Williams is at the helm.
Toobin does have his defenders, Joy Behar, of “The View” saw nothing particularly wrong with what Toobin did. She proclaimed that there is nothing wrong with masturbating. I agree. But there is something quite wrong with doing it during a business conference call. Behar seems to have missed that nuance.
Unlike CNN, The New Yorker did fire Toobin. I imagine that putting him in the same office with the people who witness his indiscretion would be rather uncomfortable for all concerned. The only thing worse than watching Toobin return to CNN is being one of those who had to watch him in action.
Toobin said his actions are indefensible – and he is right. His defense that he is a “flawed human being” is no defense at all, since anyone who exhibits unacceptable behavior can claim human frailty. What Toobin did was actually criminal – even if unintended. Losing his CNN job seems to be a reasonable minimal consequence for his action. But then again no one asked me for advice.
So, there ‘tis.