Tobias “Toby” Ziegler was born and raised in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn in New York City. His father, Jules “Julie” Ziegler, was involved in organized crime since before Toby’s birth. He has a brother, David, who is a NASA astronaut. Toby grew to be a diehard fan of the New York Yankees, at one point claiming to have seen 441 games at Yankee Stadium, and often expresses disdain at their rivals in the American League East division.
Toby is close friends with the other senior staff members and has a good working relationship with assistants Ginger and Bonnie. His prickly, dour personality is sometimes unsettling to strangers, but endearing to friends. Toby often throws a rubber ball at the window separating his office from Sam’s to get Sam to come quickly; he continues the tradition when Sam leaves and is succeeded by Will Bailey — who, trying to work out his frustration with the second inaugural address, accidentally shatters the window with a throw of his own.
Toby has no trouble ‘speaking truth to power’ and frequently confronts the President and all team members on what he feels are examples of political cowardice or moral failure — the sole exception being Mrs. Landingham, whom Toby went out of his way not to fight or offend.
A longtime professional political operative, Toby worked on a Bronx borough president race, a city council campaign, two Congressional races, Senatorial and gubernatorial races and the two Bartlet presidential campaigns. The 1998 Presidential Election was his first win.
Toby is hired as White House Communications Director for President Josiah Bartlet — later learning he hadn’t been The President's first choice. His primary responsibility is to coordinate the administration’s “message” and ensure its proper delivery by administration officials and allies in Washington. He is also the President’s primary speechwriter, sharing responsibility for the highest-priority speeches with Sam Seaborn, such as the State Of The Union, and serves as a senior domestic policy advisor.
Toby, along with the rest of the senior staff, is in Rosslyn, Virginia when white supremacists open fire on the crowd. He is unhurt but worried when he can't see Josh Lyman; he finds Josh slumped against a wall with a critical gunshot torso wound and yells for help.
Toby is the first senior staff member (after Chief of Staff Leo McGarry) to suspect Bartlet suffering from multiple sclerosis, figuring something is wrong when Vice-President John Hoynes holds an event in New Hampshire (a critical state in presidential primaries). As Bartlet reveals the disease and his concealment, Toby grows angry and confrontational, but cools down and offers support to his colleagues when it is their turn to learn the truth from the President.
Toby is heavily involved in the 2002 reelection campaign, which he makes about “smart or not, engaged or not”; he calls Bartlet “a heavyweight” and urged him to focus the campaign on it. Along with Josh Lyman and Donna Moss, he is left behind by the Presidential motorcade during a campaign stop in Indiana; they spend 20 hours trying to make their way home, constantly running into obstacles along the way. Early in the day Toby loses a bet with Josh, forcing him to follow his introduction to strangers with “I work at the White House”. That evening Toby strikes up a conversation with a bar patron who has taken his daughter to visit Notre Dame, but worries about how he’ll pay for her education. This inspires Toby and Josh to advocate a plan making college tuition tax-deductible for Americans under a certain income threshold.
During the final year of Bartlet’s second term, classified information on a military space shuttle is leaked to New York Times correspondent Greg Brock. As staffers are subpoenaed and intense scrutiny begins to fall on Chief of Staff, C.J., Toby confesses to her to be the source of the leak. He is fired and becomes the target of federal prosecution; because of this, he sits in the back of the church during the funeral of Leo McGarry. His relationship with Josh, already strained after Lyman’s resignation to run Matthew Santos’s presidential campaign, is tested again by the shuttle scandal but, despite several tense exchanges, he unofficially advises Josh during the final weeks of the Santos Campaign. Toby is pardoned of his crime by President Bartlet in what turns out to be the latter’s final official act before leaving the White House.
A “flash-forward” reveals Toby has become a professor at Columbia University at the time of the Bartlet Presidential Library’s dedication, his relationship with his colleagues and the President seeming quite repaired.
- He attended the City University of New York, but his undergraduate major is unknown. It’s known that amongst his postgraduate degrees is a law degree, although his alma mater is unknown. Like Jed Bartlet, Toby is possessed of a phenomenal memory for facts, able to rattle off the word count for the Gettysburg Address and The Ten Commandments off the top of his head, naming the make, model and production history of the plane he was on in his first appearance, and generally being a know-it-all.
- Political Campaign Consultant for the New York City Council
- Political Campaign Consultant for the Bronx Borough President
- Political Campaign Consultant for the US House of Representatives
- Political Campaign Consultant for the US Senate
- Political Campaign Consultant for the New York Gubernatorial race
- 1997-1998 : Communications Director for the “Bartlet for America” presidential campaign
- 1999-2006 : White House Communications Director and Senior Domestic Policy Advisor
Early in Bartlet’s first term, Toby separates from, and later divorces, his wife Congresswoman Andy Wyatt of Maryland. They had clashed over her desire to keep trying to conceive a child, while he wanted to consider adoption (“a stop date” he said, before correcting himself). Three years later they conceive fraternal twins, named Huckleberry (“Huck”) after Andie’s grandfather, and Molly after a Secret Service agent gunned down during Zoey Bartlet’s abduction.
- In Clement Rollins’s list of subpoenas, his name is given as "Toby Zachary Ziegler". However, while being deposed by Freedom Watch regarding a lawsuit brought against Andrea for failing to disclose her pregnancy during the 2002 election, he states his full name as “Tobias Zachary Ziegler”.
- “The Wrath From On High Atop The Thing”: The 10 Best Toby Ziegler Episodes of ‘The West Wing’ (May 2017)
Notes and references
- Holy Night
- Enemies Foreign and Domestic — Despite Toby's birthday being the subject of the Season 4 Christmas episode, he mentions here that he is 44 years old, which would make his birth year 1957
- The Crackpots and These Women
- And It's Surely to Their Credit: Sam Seaborn points out to Leo that everyone present in the room at that time is a lawyer, including Toby.
- Ways and Means
|White House Communications Director
1999 – 2006