"I'm not gonna be inauthentic and say I'm sorry about something I'm not sorry about," said Tony Robbins on March 15. On April 8 came the apology. The self-help guru found himself in the crosshairs after comments he made about the #MeToo movement during a March event started grabbing attention. CNN explains the seed of it all: a conversation Robbins had with an audience member named Nanine McCool during his Unleash the Power Within event in San Jose, one that was projected onto the big screen. McCool told him she thought he misunderstood the #MeToo movement; a key line of his response: "If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else, you haven't grown an ounce. All you've done is basically use a drug called significance to make yourself feel good." Where things went from there:
- CNN reports McCool posted a video of the 11-minute exchange on YouTube on March 25. Two days prior, Vice ran an article on Robbins' comments based on the accounts of a few of the event's roughly 12,000 attendees. One explained that Robbins characterizes "significance" as one of our "6 basic human needs. ... Tony went on to say, in a nutshell, that women in the #metoo movement were motivated by this same factor (to be significant)."
- Deadline notes it wasn't just Robbins' words that attracted attention. "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."
- One reaction, from New Yorker writer Emily Nussbaum on Twitter: "Among the many gross notions that are embedded in Tony Robbins' statements on #metoo is his disgust at sexual abuse survivors aspiring to 'significance.' How dare these women imagine their lives are as important as the men who harassed them!"
- The Washington Post reports on how McCool, who said she suffered sexual abuse as a child, replied to Robbins: "You are a leader and an influential man, and you are doing a disservice, in my opinion, to the #MeToo movement. Certainly there are people who are using it for their own personal devices, but there are also a significant number of people who are using it not to relive whatever may have happened to them, but to make it safe for the young women. So that they don't have to feel unsafe."
- #MeToo founder Tarana Burke tweeted on Saturday that she knew of the video before she watched it "because Tony Robbins people reached out to do damage control within 24 hours. They wanted to 'give me context' apparently. I don’t need any. I have eyes. The full video is 11 mins. And it’s gross. Bravo to this woman." She went on to say Robbins' "misogyny runs deep" and to call out his telling of a story about a "friend" of his during his exchange with McCool.
- The Post has those lines: "I was with someone the other day—very famous man, very powerful man—he's saying how stressed he is because he interviewed three people that day. One was a woman, two were men. The woman was better qualified, but she was very attractive, and he knew, 'I can't have her around because it's too big of a risk.' And he hired somebody else. I've had a dozen men tell me this." The Post notes he didn't define what the "risk" would have been.
- Burke's reply: "To even repeat that story of his 'friend' who wouldn't hire the 'pretty woman' as if it's the MOVEMENT's fault and not the sexist man's fault is all you need to hear. It's deplorable. But SO many folks misunderstand this work."
- Though Burke predicted in another tweet that Robbins wouldn't apologize, the apology did come on Sunday on Facebook, after the exchange grabbed much more attention thanks to a Friday report from NowThisNews. He wrote in part: "I teach that 'life happens for you, not to you' and what I’ve realized is that while 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." Read the full apology here.
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