Who’s under fire today? CNN.

I didn’t think I would ever see a moment on TV more cringy than the Scott’s Tots episode of The Office. I was wrong as CNN one-upped Michael Scott yesterday when Jeffrey Toobin was welcomed back as the network’s top legal analyst in an interview with Alisyn Camerota. There’s nothing I can say to explain the cringiness of this interview so you’re just going to have to watch it yourself here.

Did you feel completely weird like you wanted to stop the video but just couldn’t? Yeah, me too.

Why? Just why? Who is the PR genius who thought this was a good idea?  Whoever it was they should be fired, but if a guy can jack off on camera in front of female co-workers and keep his job then no one at CNN should ever be fired for anything.

Before I move on to the PR side of this, let’s get one thing straight. Toobin wasn’t just jacking off in front of co-workers. He was jacking off to one of his co-workers. He thought his camera was off. I don’t see any other explanation. Yet, despite the absolute absurdity of the situation, CNN decided to keep Toobin.

That’s the first mistake. Had I been giving CNN advice, I would have told them exactly that. There’s no way of keep Toobin. Period.

But let’s say that CNN demanded it. My first advice would have been to wait longer. It had to be a minimum of one year. Next, release a short written statement. “Jeffrey Toobin is being accepted back to CNN on a trial basis after he’s provided proof of one year of mental counseling.”  That’s it. Nothing else. Move on.

The interview was the worst thing CNN could have done. They put Camerota in a horrible position, made Toobin look like an even bigger jackass and gave content to fuel a viral moment that reminded everyone of what Toobin did after almost everyone, including me, completely forgot about the situation.

You see, these network types are just like DC politico types and the types at big marketing agencies in NY and LA. They live in their own bubbles and believe everyone knows and experiences what they do. They have absolutely no idea what’s going on in middle America. They don’t understand normal consumers—or voters. So in their eyes, of course everyone knows who Jeffrey Toobin is, when in fact not a damn person before yesterday could have told you who Jeffrey Toobin is.

This entire thing was one huge PR disaster.

Interested in hearing more analysis of the PR disasters of the week? Under Fire—a podcast about crisis, cancel culture, and brand reputation—is released weekly on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!

About the Author

Laurens Group

Laurens Group is a creative advocacy firm that leverages digital communication to engage, persuade, and activate.