By now, we are all so accustomed to Zooms taking place of regular, in-person meetings that, ideally, we have figured out how to conduct ourselves while on these calls to avoid embarrassment, shame, or accidental sexual harassment. I have gotten this memo, my coworkers have too, but the one person who maybe has not is a preeminent lawyer, New Yorker writer, and CNN on-air talking head Jeffrey Toobin.
A terse report from Vice’s Laura Wagner raises more questions than it answers:
The New Yorker has suspended reporter Jeffrey Toobin. Sources tell VICE it’s because he exposed himself during a Zoom call last week between members of the New Yorker and WNYC radio.
Toobin said in a statement to Motherboard: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”
“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...
Toobin’s Conde Nast email has been disabled and he has not tweeted since October 13.
O... kay, Mr. Toobin! The dick was out for an undisclosed amount of time, and per this apology, Toobin thought he was not visible, and so he was doing whatever it was he was doing with the meat and potatoes, the nature of which has not yet been disclosed. This report, which I assume will be updated with more information once the full story is revealed, is tantalizingly thin—but it also serves as a cautionary tale for the rest of us. Follow the immortal advice of Jezebel’s former culture editor and my personal guiding light Clover Hope: “Doing ANYTHING besides just sitting there in a Zoom should be standard by now,” she said to me. “Just don’t do anything!”
Unfortunately, I respect and understand Clover’s opinion, but I don’t necessarily agree. Sitting still during a Zoom feels like work. Getting up from the couch and taking the computer with you to the kitchen to clean the oven while talking to your friends is a nice way to distract you from the fact that you are talking to friends on a computer screen and not in person, at a bar, screaming in each other’s faces over the music. However, the difference between me and Jeffrey Toobin in this scenario is that I have yet to expose myself “accidentally” or otherwise on a Zoom for business or pleasure and Jeffery Toobin, the author of a relatively readable book about the Supreme Court, has possibly done just that.
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More questions: where was the laptop? Was Toobin in the bathroom? Did he really think that no one could see him? Was the touch an exploratory on to, say, tend to a stray itch, or was it a full-out, “hey how’s your father, how you doin’, how’s it been?” with the member in question? Something about the apology and the severity of his punishment makes me wonder; though I suppose even if he somehow accidentally exposed himself while trotting to the restroom to do a number 1, he’d still have to be suspended because even if you didn’t “mean” to expose yourself to a group of colleagues, you “accidentally” did, and I’m sorry, no one on a work call wants to see a co-worker’s dick, even and maybe especially if it is attached to a lawyer and Harvard man who has done some unsavory things in his personal life.
Some advice, then, though it is late in the game, and really, we should’ve gotten all of these mishaps out of the way during the first season of this nightmare: if you feel compelled to do anything that would accidentally expose your undercarriage or your titties to the all-seeing eye of your laptop’s camera WHILE YOU ARE ON A CALL, don’t.
Update, 5:41 P.M.: Finally, some clarity on how and what occurred with Mr. Toobin’s tuber. The circumstances of the incident are slightly clearer, though reading this paragraph over and over, as I have done for the past five minutes, have not made me feel better about anything, really, just way, way worse.
Two people who were on the call told Motherboard 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.
I’m sure there’s an audience for this very specific role play featuring New Yorker writers indulging in a spot of theater; for those who might have been excited about this, I’m sorry that Toobin’s potato ruined this. I have to assume this has been canceled? The night is still young, and I might be wrong. According to Wagner at Vice, the two people they spoke to saw Toobin “jerking off,” a phrase that conjures an image that will live in a dark corner of my brain for at least the rest of this evening. Apparently Toobs wasn’t bold enough to jerk it during the actual simulation, but during a pause in the proceedings that forced the New Yorker writers into “break out rooms” to do “strategy.” Further details of the incident are as follows:
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.
I’m in no way defending this man who jerked it on camera on a secret sneak-Zoom, but what I might be saying is that participating in a fucking election simulation when the real deal is like two weeks away and terrifying might make me jerk it out of boredom or at least apathy for having to participate in something so deeply corny.