Should Toby Have Been Fired on 'The West Wing' or Did Politics Get in the Way?

"You feel this corporate shadow constantly suppressing and regulating and watching over, especially for Toby," said actor Richard Schiff.

Brandon Charles - Author

Apr. 22 2024, Published 1:12 p.m. ET

'The West Wing' cast standing in front of a U.S. flag
Source: Getty Images

Beloved shows inspire the strongest fan bases. Regardless of when the show went off the air, opinions on characters become stronger as the years pass. One such show is The West Wing and one such character is Toby Ziegler. Nearly 20 years since his departure from The White House, fans still get upset that Toby was fired from The West Wing.

Article continues below advertisement
Article continues below advertisement

After appearing in six full seasons of The West Wing, Toby was gone after four episodes in Season 7. In the episode “Mr. Frost,” we see Toby accept his fate, whether it was warranted or not.

'The West Wing' cast
Source: Getty Images
Article continues below advertisement

Toby was fired from The White House on the 'The West Wing' for a leak.

All of the following may sound silly because The West Wing was a show rooted in reality. But sometimes even the most serious shows sound like science fiction.

Toby was the White House Communications Director in the President Bartlet White House. Toby leaked to a journalist at The New York Times the existence of a secret military space shuttle at the end of Season 6. This is relevant because there were three astronauts trapped in the International Space Station. The leak led to the use of the shuttle due to public demand.

Article continues below advertisement

During the first part of Season 7, there’s an investigation to determine the leaker. Toby admits to it and is fired from the Bartlet White House. For more context, it’s important to remember that Toby’s brother was an astronaut, hence his moral responsibility to let the public know there’s a program that could potentially save astronauts' lives.

Source: YouTube
Article continues below advertisement

While not everything worked out great for Toby, he did kind of help save those astronauts’ lives and was ultimately pardoned by President Bartlet in his last act in office.

Both super fans and the actor playing Toby didn't like the firing.

You can find dozens of impassioned writings from super fans of The West Wing about Toby’s firing but the best may be from Brian Grubb at Uproxx. In his piece, “‘The West Wing’ Shouldn’t Have Done What It Did To Toby,” published on Oct. 12, 2016, more than 11 years since Toby was fired, Brian posits that this never even had to happen.

Article continues below advertisement

“None of it had to happen, you know? By doing it, the show took Toby — to that point a gruff, cynical, entirely lovable crank, who served as a kind of Greek chorus for the more liberal wing of the show’s audience — and more or less threw him in the trash in the middle of the final season. Why would they do that? They didn’t have to. They could have just as easily, like, not done it. Or they could have kept most of the plot, but sent Josh Lyman up to fix it on a tiny rocket and then left him out there to die alone in the cosmos."

Martin Sheen as President Bartlet and Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
Source: Getty Images
Article continues below advertisement

Maybe it did have to happen. According to Toby’s portrayer, actor Richard Schiff, the character was just too liberal for the executives at Time Warner. In a piece for Deseret News on Oct. 21, 2005, he said, "You feel this corporate shadow constantly suppressing and regulating and watching over, especially for the character Toby, who is somewhat conscience-driven and dynamic in his opinions. You just feel the suppression."

The West Wing is currently available to stream on Max. The cast, including Toby, reunited in October 2020 for A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote, also available on Max.

More from Distractify

Latest Television News and Updates

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    © Copyright 2024 Distractify. Distractify is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.