Longtime CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin announced his split with the network late Friday afternoon, only 14 months after CNN welcomed him back following the infamous Zoom incident that tarnished his reputation and embarrassed the network.
While Toobin announced that he “decided” to leave CNN, many feel he wasn’t exactly given a choice considering new CNN CEO Chris Licht is thought to be attempting to “tamp down spectacle” and restore the network’s credibility. If anyone brought spectacle to CNN, it was Toobin.
The legal pundit was famously caught masturbating during a 2020 Zoom meeting with his New Yorker colleagues and subsequently fired by the magazine. CNN, however, did not dismiss him and granted him a lengthy leave of absence when the network was still controlled by former president Jeff Zucker – who was forced out himself earlier this year.
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A longtime media industry insider with ties to CNN doesn’t believe the Friday news-dump announcement was Toobin’s decision.
“Jeffrey Toobin was almost certainly pushed out,” the industry insider told Fox News Digital.
“You can’t have someone on air like that representing you and only someone with Jeff Zucker’s power— which Chris Licht doesn’t have— could have protected him,” the insider continued. “Look for many, many more cuts to come. CNN is notoriously bloated compared to Fox and MSNBC and Licht could probably halve its size with no noticeable change on air.”
A current CNN insider agreed that more cuts are looming.
“They’re going to cut back on [contributors] I think. Toobin clearly was first on the list, but I think it’s going to be a broader thing,” they told Fox News Digital.
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Shelley Ross, a longtime TV news producer who made news last year after her revelation that ex-CNN anchor Chris Cuomo harassed her once at ABC News, took to Facebook with her thoughts on Toobin’s exit.
“It was just too difficult to concentrate on anything he was saying. Good decision. I hope he gets help,” Ross wrote. “There are many many pundits who are brilliant and don’t have his personal baggage, sex offenses, paternity denial, arrogance, creep factor.”
Toobin did not respond to a request for comment. The left-leaning analyst was a fierce critic of the conservatives on the Supreme Court and reliable anti-Republican voice.
The network itself has been vague, confirming that Toobin was out but declining to elaborate.
“We are grateful for Jeffrey’s contributions to the network over the years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” a CNN spokesperson told Fox News Digital.
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When Toobin returned to CNN’s airwaves last June, he sat down with CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota to discuss the scandal and his time out of the public eye.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Camerota asked Toobin.
“Well, obviously, I wasn’t thinking very well or very much, and it was something that was inexplicable to me. I think one point – I wouldn’t exactly say in my defense, because nothing is really in my defense. I didn’t think I was on the call. I didn’t think other people could see me,” Toobin said.
His appearance sent Twitter into a frenzy, with onlookers from both sides of the aisle scolding the network for allowing him to return. Following that uncomfortable exchange, it was business as usual for Toobin, who appeared regularly on the network over the past 14 months.
Zucker was forced to resign earlier this year ahead of a long-planned merger that put CNN under the control of the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery. Licht, a longtime TV executive, reportedly is looking to bring CNN back to the middle after its leftward lurch under Zucker.
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Former CNN senior digital producer Steve Krakauer, who now pens the Fourth Watch media newsletter, feels there is one less headache for new management with Toobin gone, but it doesn’t solve all the network’s woes.
“It was always a little eyebrow-raising when CNN brought back Toobin after a lengthy suspension, and after a brief awkward interview, he was just re-inserted into his old role as if nothing had happened, and after he revealed he used his suspension to write a new book,” Krakauer told Fox News Digital.
“His exit removes an unnecessary complication and headache from the network,” Krakauer continued. “Still, while Toobin was given more leeway to put on his partisan hat as part of his legal analysis during the Trump years, this doesn’t necessarily relate to the issue CNN is most in need of addressing – fixing the overt partisanship and smug disdain for half the country which became pervasive at the network over the past five years.”
A former CNN contributor told Fox News Digital that simply ditching Toobin won’t help restore the network’s straight-news credibility.
“They’re in such a hole. It will take major changes, and not atop the network, but amongst the producers and show bookers. They are almost all of one mind – liberal,” the Zucker-era contributor said. “You’d have to make wholesale personnel changes, and I don’t think they have [a] capacity or desire to do that.”
So far, Licht’s changes have been minimal, such as dialing back the use of the “breaking news” banner that became commonplace under Zucker. He also announced CNN’s struggling morning show “New Day” would be “reimagined,” but other changes haven’t become obvious yet.
“He’s determined to tamp down spectacle and has discouraged the presentation of content in an alarmist fashion,” a source close to Licht told Fox News Digital earlier this year.
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Spectacle seemed to follow Toobin, and he became a punchline once again in May following the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that signaled the overturning of Roe v. Wade. CNN was pummeled for allowing Toobin to dominate the network’s coverage due to what critics call a clear conflict of interest.
Unbeknownst to most CNN viewers, the issue of abortion hits close to home for Toobin.
Toobin fathered a child in 2009 with Casey Greenfield, the daughter of Toobin’s one-time CNN colleague Jeff Greenfield. He urged Greenfield to have an abortion, reportedly even offering money to terminate the pregnancy. Toobin was later taken to court after he denied the child was his. Toobin was ordered to pay child support after he was forced to take a DNA test which proved that he was the child’s biological father.
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