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CULTURE | 20-10-2020 17:51

Exposed: US pundit latest to fall foul of nude Zoom mishap

Author and commentator Jeffrey Toobin, 60, apologised on Monday after he was suspended by the New Yorker magazine for showing his penis during a conference call with colleagues.

A top US commentator and author who exposed himself on a Zoom call isn't the first case of unwitting nudity while video conferencing, but is arguably the most shocking.

Jeffrey Toobin, 60, apologised on Monday after he was suspended by the New Yorker magazine for showing his penis during a conference call with colleagues about the upcoming presidential election.

Toobin – a legal analyst for CNN – was seen masturbating, according to unnamed sources on the call spoken to by Vice News, which broke the story of last week's incident.

It happened during an election simulation between New Yorker staff and WNYC radio in which participants played roles including those of US President Donald Trump and Democrat opponent Joe Biden.

During a break, Toobin appeared to be on a second Zoom call but was then seen on camera touching his penis, according to Vice's sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologise to my wife, family, friends and co-workers," Toobin said in a statement to Vice.

"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," he added.

The incident is the latest example of Zoom users inadvertently baring more than their chat participants bargained for as video conferencing booms during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, Argentine lawmaker Juan Emilio Ameri was suspended after he fondled and kissed his partner's breasts during a parliamentary session being held by video conference.

As another deputy spoke on a giant screen installed in parliament, which showed participants in their homes, Ameri, 47, was seen pulling one of the woman's breasts out of her T-shirt and kissing it.

The parliamentary session was interrupted and then suspended by the speaker.

Confused, Ameri tried to apologise, saying he did not think he was connected to the Internet at that particular moment.

"Here in the centre of the country the connection is very poor," said Ameri, who was suspended from Congress for five days. 

"My partner came out of the bathroom, and I asked her how her implants were doing and I kissed them, because she had surgery ten days ago to have them put in."

'Shaky picture'

Also in September, a businessman accidentally appeared naked on a Zoom conference call with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro after he forgot to turn off his camera.

The man appeared shirtless on the bottom right corner of the screen in front of around two dozen others taking part in the call.

A Brazilian minister on the call says, "There is a guy having a shower there, naked."

Bolsonaro responds, saying, "Unfortunately we saw. It was a shaky picture but we saw, unfortunately."

And in June, Irish MEP Luke Flanagan spoke at a European Parliament meeting via video link from his bedroom where he was wearing a shirt but no trousers. He was wearing underwear.

"Just back from a run... was in a T-shirt two minutes before. Decided to put on shirt to look respectable! That worked really well," he wrote on Twitter, joking "Hope you like my legs!"

Zoom calls have also been the target of intentional and more sinister nudity this year, with reports of hackers interrupting school lessons and court hearings with pornography, forcing the company to toughen safety measures.

Toobin is the author of several books, including most recently True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump – about the Mueller inquiry into allegations of Russian involvement with the 2016 Trump campaign.

CNN said Toobin would be taking some time off "while he deals with a personal issue."

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by by Peter Hutchinson, AFP

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