CNN appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place after star legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was fired from The New Yorker magazine following an internal investigation into his Zoom call masturbation incident.
Toobin, who had written for the venerable periodical since 1993, was initially suspended last month after he was reportedly seen masturbating on a Zoom call with colleagues.
"As a result of our investigation, Jeffrey Toobin is no longer affiliated with the company," a spokesperson for The New Yorker confirmed to Fox News on Wednesday.
At the time the scandal broke, CNN granted Toobin's request for "some time off while he deals with a personal issue."
Now, the pressure is on CNN to decide whether to fire its loyal commentator of 18 years or keep the embattled analyst on the network's airwaves.
"CNN has been lecturing the American people about how we all need to come together, heal as a country, and show decency, but they have little room to talk seeing as how they didn't move to quickly fire Jeffrey Toobin for his horrid act on the Zoom call," NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News. "So until they make clear that Toobin's behavior was unacceptable and they axe him, no American should want anything to do with their condescending platitudes about decency and unity."
Toobin joined CNN in 2002 and has been a staple ever since. He was a regular on-air presence in the Trump era, providing commentary during the Russia investigation, the president's impeachment, and the confirmation of three Supreme Court justices, all while fueling CNN's well-known anti-Trump coverage.
Now, his future at the cable network hangs in the balance.
"Any normal corporation would have fired Toobin approximately 12 seconds after this incident occurred. I don’t expect CNN ever will as Toobin is too powerful a voice in the network’s war on Trump and Republicans more generally," Tom Elliott, founder and news editor of the media company Grabien, predicted to Fox News. "CNN knows their largely progressive audience will forgive them for elevating Trump hatred over the #MeToo movement."
Toobin addressed his termination from the magazine on Twitter.
"I was fired today by @NewYorker after 27 years as a Staff Writer," he tweeted. "I will always love the magazine, will miss my colleagues, and will look forward to reading their work."
CNN insiders approved of the New Yorker's decision.
"Absolutely should've been fired," one CNN insider told Fox News.
"Given his history, that is the appropriate action by The New Yorker," another CNN insider similarly expressed.
The CNN star does have a history of disturbing sexual behavior. A 2010 Gawker report outlined rumors about Toobin's aggressive actions towards women outside of his marriage. In addition, Toobin fathered a child in 2009 with Casey Greenfield, the daughter of Toobin's one-time CNN colleague Jeff Greenfield.
Toobin urged Greenfield to have an abortion and was later taken to court after he denied the child was his. Toobin was forced to take a DNA test which proved that he was the child's biological father and was ordered to pay child support.
One CNN insider expressed confidence that the network will weather the storm and ultimately keep Toobin on its payroll.
"CNN will dig heels in, watch!" the insider told Fox News. "They don't want feel they're caving."
Discussing Toobin's firing from The New Yorker, this insider added, "[Toobin] should not remain at CNN either. But their reticence to make a decision and allow him to take 'personal leave' is damn telling."
Another network insider was less certain of Toobin's fate.
"I honestly don't have a guess as to what they will do," the person said. "There has been no mention of him at all since this happened."
Conservative commentator Stephen Miller pondered Toobin's fate on Twitter, alluding to CNN's decision to keep former DHS official Miles Taylor as an on-air analyst after he lied to anchor Anderson Cooper about authoring the now-infamous "anonymous" New York Times op-ed condemning the president.
"CNN's fine with their contributors lying on the air to their hosts so I guess we'll see where the line is with Toobin," Miller wrote.
Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson stressed that Toobin's masturbation incident "did not take place while on the job at CNN," so there "can be no claim of workplace misconduct unlike at The New Yorker."
"As much as I disagree with so much of his legal analysis over the years, I'm not in favor of purging him from public life," Jacobson told Fox News. "CNN will have to decide whether Toobin's credibility and persona are so damaged that he no longer can serve the role he has played at CNN. My hunch is that he will be brought back after a period of quiet."
CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News' requests for comment.
The messy controversy began when Vice reported that Toobin exposed himself to staffers of the New Yorker and members of WNYC radio during a Zoom call.
Vice later added a very salacious update.
The call, which was described as an "election simulation," featured New Yorker writers Jane Mayer, Masha Gessen, Andrew Marantz, Jelani Cobb, Evan Osnos, Sue Halpern, and Dexter Filkins playing various roles in potential 2020 outcomes including President Trump, Joe Biden, "establishment Republicans," 'establishment Democrats," and "the military." Toobin was playing "the courts."
According to two sources, Toobin was seen masturbating during what was supposed to be a 10-minute "strategy session" among the various role-playing groups. However, the sources told Vice that it "seemed like Toobin was on a second video call."
"The sources said that when the groups returned from their breakout rooms, Toobin lowered the camera," Vice reported. "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."
Vice noted, "This piece has been updated with more detail about the call and the headline has been updated to reflect that Toobin was masturbating."
Prior to the reported masturbation, Toobin offered an apology for his "embarrassingly stupid mistake" and attempted to explain what led to the incident.
“I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers," Toobin said in a statement to 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."