Self-help guru Tony Robbins has issued an apology for criticizing the #MeToo movement during one of his large-scale events last month in San Jose, Calif.
“I apologize for expressing anything other than my profound admiration for the #MeToo movement,” his statement says. “I teach that ‘life happens for you, not to you’ and what I’ve realized is that I’ve dedicated my life to working with victims of abuse all over the world, I need to get connected to the brave women of #MeToo.”
Video of the March 15 event surfaced yesterday (see below), leading to the apology. Footage showed Robbins, who stands a muscle-bound 6-foot-7, pacing the aisles of a large arena during his “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, as is his custom, when a woman named Nanine McCool stood to speak. “I think you misunderstand the #MeToo movement,” she began. Robbins then co-opted the conversation (“mansplaining,” as many press accounts described it) and reeling off the issues he had with women affiliating with #MeToo.
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While he insisted, “I’m not knocking it,” he then went on to say that by identifying with the movement, “All you’ve done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good.” He added that the reckoning could wind up having unfavorable consequences for women in the workplace. One “very famous, very powerful man,” Robbins said, is among “a dozen” men in high places who have confided to him recently that that they hired male candidates over better-qualified women. Why? In at least one case, “She was very attractive,” Robbins said. “But he knew, ‘I couldn’t have her around because it’s too big a risk.'”
Robbins delivered his booming take while also displaying what many observers saw as intimidating behavior toward McCool, physically backing her up the aisle as he spoke, actions that stoked further online outrage. Tarana Burke, an activist credited with founding #MeToo more than a decade ago, sent out a series of tweets tagging Robbins and expressing her anger at his opinions (see some of her tweets below.) Some initial responses to his apology noted that it did not specifically name McCool or express any regret about how her comments were handled in the auditorium.
In the 2016 Netflix documentary, I Am Not Your Guru, director Joe Berlinger chronicled a weekend-long event in Florida that closely resembled the one in San Jose. Robbins has long been closely intertwined with Hollywood, appearing as himself in many films and TV shows over the past couple of decades.
Here is the apology in full:
Here is one of Burke’s many tweets from yesterday:
And here is the full video of the original exchange:
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