Self-help superstar Tony Robbins – who will charge Australians up to $4995 to see him when he appears here in September – is the latest international celebrity caught up in a #MeToo scandal.
Mr Robbins – who is reportedly worth US$500 million earned from staging “life-transforming” fire walks and other stunts – stands accused of sexual misconduct by former fans and staffers.
He’s also alleged to frequently and publicly scold victims of rape, violence and domestic abuse – either accusing women of making rape claims as a way of gaining power, or demanding to know what part they played in causing their partners to hit them.
He has defended this behaviour as a kind of therapy
In an explosive report from BuzzFeed – that includes secret recordings of Robbins profanely shaming abuse victims – Robbins is said to have sexually harassed and exposed himself to female staff members, and ordered his bodyguards to trawl the audience for attractive women and bring them to him.
The life coach and author’s lawyers have issued a blanket denial of the harassment claims. Robbins has also published an open letter in which he charges BuzzFeed with “publishing an inaccurate, agenda-driven version of the past, pierced with falsehoods”.
In the open letter he mentions he has worked with secular saints such as Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.
Robbins has reportedly staged private workshops for Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, tennis legend Andre Agassi, the Kardashians – and former US President Bill Clinton is said to have the guru’s number on speed dial.
In fact, Mr Clinton has reportedly said Robbins helped him through his impeachment scandal – when he lied to Congress about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky – and his difficult adjustment to life after politics.
More than $100,000 a year to join his club
Aside form his super-expensive seminars – the cheapest ticket to the Sydney event is $1695, according to the Unleash the Power website – Robbins runs a kind of private club.
The rich and insecure can pay more than $100,000 a year for membership. But as BuzzFeed reports: “Behind that dazzling veneer, Robbins guards his empire with intense secrecy. Employees are bound by strict confidentiality agreements, and audiences who attend his multi-day coaching camps must sign contracts forbidding them from recording what goes on inside.”
It was probably inevitable that recordings would be made and eventually leaked.
This first occurred in March last year, when Robbins ran afoul of the #MeToo movement after a seminar in San Jose, California, when he told his audience: “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.”
The comments led to sporadic jeering of Robbins. And when an audience member stood and confronted him about his remarks, Robbins – who is nearly two metres tall – reportedly stood over over the woman, put his hand on her chest and pushed her backwards, demanding to know why she was resisting him.
Already on the nose with #MeToo
The incident went unreported until a Twitter storm erupted and Robbins was forced to publish a grovelling apology that included a vow of respect for the movement – and a virtual pitch to gain access to the movement as a slice of the market. He also painted himself as a victim of abuse.
“Let me clearly say, I agree with the goals of the #MeToo movement and its founding message of ’empowerment through empathy’, which makes it a beautiful force for good,” he wrote.
“For 40 years I’ve encouraged people to grow into the men and women they dream to be. I watch in awe as more and more women all over the world find their voice and stand up and speak out. All of our growth begins with learning. My own started with a childhood marked by abuse… I need to get connected to the brave women of #MeToo.
“I am committed to being part of the solution.”
How these latest reports affect his business remains unclear.
But the Sydney event, according to the website, is offering a 45 per cent discount to all packages.