Jeffrey Toobin’s Zoom Indiscretion Costs Him His Job at The New Yorker

Is There a Path to Redemption for the Disgraced Legal Affairs Journalist?          

11/12/2020 – – This headline in today’s New York Post is very bad news for Jeffrey Toobin:

The New Yorker fires Jeffrey Toobin after probe into Zoom masturbation scandal

After unintentionally exposing himself onscreen during a Zoom meeting with New Yorker colleagues last month, the legal affairs journalist was suspended by the magazine pending an investigation of the embarrassing incident. In an internal message obtained by the Post, Condé Nast Chief People Officer Stan Duncan reported: “I am writing to share with you that our investigation regarding Jeffrey Toobin is complete, and as a result, he is no longer affiliated with our company.” Duncan assured the publishing company’s employees that, “We are committed to fostering an environment where everyone feels respected and upholds our standards of conduct.”

Toobin responded to his firing in a tweet, stating, “I will always love the magazine, will miss my colleagues, and will look forward to reading their work.”

I say the Post headline is very bad news for Toobin not just because of the obvious public shame, but because his termination from the position of staff writer he’s held at the New Yorker for 27 years leaves him no platform to continue his trade. CNN, which placed him on suspension immediately following his indiscretion, is unlikely to expose its viewers to Toobin’s legal analysis again anytime soon.    

As we discuss in Chapter 21 of The Crisis Preparedness Quotient, the surest path to forgiveness and redemption for famous individuals who fall from grace is performance. Apologies, time away from the spotlight, good deeds and pledges of improved behavior are important. But only performance — doing what you did before the troubles at a comparable level of success — holds the power to heal most reputational wounds.  

How long should Toobin wait before he gets back to writing and commenting?

The public expects some level of suffering. That’s human nature. Just how much time in the stocks is required before audiences and the media will grant anyone forgiveness depends on the nature of the offense, the pre-crisis reputation of the offender, and the adequacy of the offender’s response. Comedian Michael Richards, who played the character Cosmo Kramer in the sitcom Seinfeld, has still not performed in a comedy club since he targeted a heckler using the “n-word” at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood in 2006.

Toobin may be the first celebrity to self-destruct on Zoom. He won’t be the last. Because he’s an engaging, talented analyst, there is a path to redemption. But if I were Toobin, I wouldn’t start that journey until well into 2021.

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