man typing with one hand under the desk

Lolostock/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Media men are defending Jeffrey Toobin for masturbating on a work call

You don't have to defend sexual harassment. Ever.

Oct 20, 2020, 9:27 am

Tech

David Covucci 

David Covucci

Analysis

Yesterday, media Twitter was utterly agape at the news that one of the more esteemed reporters of a generation, Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker, exposed himself in front of a number of other generationally-acclaimed journalists on a Zoom call.

Advertisement Hide

The release of the news was a (probably intentional) masterclass in obfuscation, with the New Yorker, CNN (where he also works), and Toobin putting out statements calling it alternatively "accidental," an "incident" and a "personal matter."

Advertisement Hide

It was only after Vice revealed he'd been masturbating on the call did everyone understand the full scope of the accidental, personal incident.

While the coronavirus pandemic has created a situation where home and work life have blurred a touch, there's no denying what happened. An employee publicly masturbated in front of coworkers during a work meeting. That's it, that's all there is to it.

Unless you happen to be a man, in the media, who instead of tweeting "damn, don't jack it in front of anyone," or "damn that is sexual harassment," instantly chose to defend Toobin and therefore defend sexual harassment, allowing Toobin's insistence that it was an accident to carry the narrative.

Here's CNN's Brian Stelter, who is worried what it might mean for CNN to be absent one talking head out of its lineup of 1,000 in the run-up to the 2020 election.

Advertisement Hide

As detailed in this good thread, many sexual harassers play down what they've done as "accidental" to avoid accusations and prosecutions, so what Toobin says here should have no weight whatsoever. And even if you absolutely utterly believe his version of the events, he was video sexting in the middle of a work meeting with his colleagues, which is FUCKING ABHORRENT.

You'd like to believe that many of the men in media, which has faced numerous incidents of sexual assault and harassment, would think not to defend this. Or would have learned something in the past three years. You'd be completely wrong.

Vox's German Lopez wrote on Twitter, "Not sure someone getting caught doing something almost everyone does should be a national story," which is a willful misreading of the Toobin story.

Advertisement Hide

Ditto the Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf, who blamed the pandemic.

"When Occam's Razor suggests someone humiliated himself through a combo of technological error, pandemic circumstances, bad judgment, & bad luck, it seems like we should react w/ empathy, politeness, & forgiveness, as we would want to be treated, rather than punitive mockery," he wrote.

Advertisement Hide

Which willfully ignores the much more apt Occam's Razor, which suggests that when someone who has been previously accused of sexual harassment commits sexual harassment, it was probably sexual harassment.

When Twitter users suggested that Friedersdorf might also masturbate during work calls, he replied to them all with the same copy-and-paste comment about having a "Puritan mindset."

Advertisement Hide

"Do you want to be the type of person who accuses me of jacking off at work?" Friedersdorf essentially asks. Which, well, I don't have to be. I'll just link to the tweets in 2019 where he got mad at people shaming comedian Louis C.K.

When one person repeatedly rushes to the defense of men accused of masturbating in front of people in their industry, what does that suggest?

Share this article
*First Published: Oct 20, 2020, 9:27 am