The journalist Jeffrey Toobin has resumed his role as chief legal analyst at CNN eight months after he exposed himself on a Zoom call with colleagues at The New Yorker, where he had been a longtime staff writer.
After the October incident, the magazine fired Mr. Toobin and he took an indefinite leave from CNN, where he had been one of the cable channel’s most recognizable commentators. On Thursday, he reappeared on the network — to the surprise of some journalists there — and apologized again for his actions, saying, “It was wrong, it was stupid, and I’m trying to be a better person.”
Mr. Toobin spoke with the anchor Alisyn Camerota, who summed up the events that had prompted his temporary departure from the public eye.
“In October, you were on a Zoom call with your colleagues from The New Yorker magazine,” Ms. Camerota recounted. “Everyone took a break for several minutes, during which time you were caught masturbating on camera. You were subsequently fired from that job after 27 years of working there, and you since then have been on leave from CNN. Do I have all that right?”
“You’ve got it all right,” Mr. Toobin replied, adding, “Sad to say.”
CNN confirmed that Mr. Toobin had returned to his role but declined to comment beyond his on-air remarks.
Unlike The New Yorker — which promptly suspended Mr. Toobin, investigated his behavior and subsequently fired him — CNN was opaque in its response to the incident, saying at the time only that it had granted his request for time off “while he deals with a personal issue.”
On Thursday, Mr. Toobin told viewers that he had forgotten to turn off his camera during the call and did not realize his colleagues could see him. “This was deeply moronic and indefensible,” he said, adding that he had spent the last several months — “miserable months in my life” — pursuing “therapy, trying to do some public service, working in a food bank, which I certainly am going to continue to do.”
“I am trying to become the kind of person that people can trust again,” he added.
An on-screen graphic during the interview read: “JEFFREY TOOBIN APOLOGIZES FOR ‘EMBARRASSINGLY STUPID MISTAKE.’”
CNN and its president, Jeff Zucker, in recent weeks have been forgiving of lapses by major network personalities.
Chris Cuomo, CNN’s highest-rated prime time host, apologized on-air last month after it emerged that he had offered political advice to his brother, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who has been facing a series of sexual harassment allegations. It was a clear breach of traditional journalistic ethics, but Chris Cuomo faced no internal discipline.
Several times on Thursday, Mr. Toobin expressed gratitude that CNN had restored his previous role. He said he believed The New Yorker’s decision to fire him “was an excessive punishment,” adding, “I’m incredibly grateful to CNN for taking me back. But, you know, other people are going to weigh in about whether it was appropriate for them to get rid of me, and for CNN to keep me.”
His prediction about criticism quickly came true.
“This is garbage,” Meghan McCain, the conservative co-host of “The View” on ABC, wrote on Twitter after learning of Mr. Toobin’s return. “What does working at a food bank have to do with this?”
In front of the CNN cameras, Mr. Toobin answered several questions from Ms. Camerota about his scandal before turning to the news of the day, offering his analysis of a court ruling that overturned an assault weapons ban in California.