Famed life coach Tony Robbins is known for commanding arenas with his deep voice and enthusiastic, often crass, delivery of the message that anyone, yes even you, can overcome anything.
But an investigation published by Buzzfeed News today painted a different picture, revealing a number of sexual-harassment allegations against Robbins and a history of victim-blaming rape survivors. These allegations span the last three decades and come from former employees, clients, and followers.
Two former employees of Robbins, both women, told Buzzfeed that he expected them to work inside hotel rooms and bathrooms with him while he was naked or in the shower. And numerous former employees, including bodyguards, an event manager, and a chef, allege that Robbins had his team scout out attractive women at his events to invite to his room. Another employee said that she was fired after entering into a consensual sexual relationship with Robbins.
The report includes audio of Robbins speaking to a woman at a December 2018 event after she told him that she had endured emotional abuse at the hands of her partner. “What the fuck is emotional abuse?” he responded to her in front of a large crowd. “Are we that fucking weak that someone can’t tell you with passion what they fucking feel without them abusing you?” When the woman clarified that this person had also been physically abusive towards her, Robbins responded: “What role did you play? I'm not suggesting there’s any excuse for hitting a woman, so hear me, but I also want you to know that people don’t just act a certain fucking way.” He then told the audience she was lying to herself before asking her directly, “Has he loved you? Has he looked out for you, does he put up with you when you’ve been a crazy bitch? Have you ever been a crazy bitch?”
The investigation comes over a year after VICE reported on controversial comments made by Robbins during a three-day seminar in March 2018 about the #MeToo movement. There, Robbins said that many women coming forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment did so in order to gain “significance,” and went on to say that these women were “victimizing themselves.”
“What role did you play? […] Does he put up with you when you’ve been a crazy bitch?"
When Nanine McCool, a woman in the audience and a survivor of sexual assault, confronted Robbins, saying that he had mischaracterized the #MeToo movement, Robbins doubled down on his comments. “I’m not knocking the #MeToo movement, I’m knocking victimhood," he said. "If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else… all you’ve done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good.”
A spokeswoman for Robbins told VICE in 2018: “Tony Robbins is and always has been supportive of the #MeToo movement. He has devoted his life’s work, over 40 years, to help people end their pain and suffering and most importantly improve the quality of their lives. Tony is against abuse of any kind, to anyone, period.” Robbins’s team at the time offered VICE the full video of the seminar in exchange for an NDA and discontinuation of the story. VICE declined the offer.
Robbins’s law firm, Lavely & Singer, responded to the Buzzfeed News report by threatening sources, telling at least one source that his life would “be forever changed” if he did not retract his statements. The firm also accused Buzzfeed reporters of having a “Me Too Agenda.”