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The founder of the #MeToo movement had words for Robbins.

A video of motivational speaker Tony Robbins criticizing the #MeToo movement has gone viral and dozens of women—including the founder of the movement—have responded to his remarks.

In mid-March at his “Unleash the Power Within” self-help event in San Jose, California, Robbins told the audience that the #MeToo movement is an excuse for women to use “victimhood” to help them gain “significance.”

“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,” Robbins says in the video.

In an 11-minute video captured by one of the event attendees, an audience member named Nanine McCool—who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse—told Robbins she felt he misunderstood and mischaracterized the #MeToo movement by claiming that women are using it for their own personal gains.

The life coach disagreed and said he’s not knocking the #MeToo movement and anyone who’s used it “correctly,” but that he’s criticizing “victimhood.” He then walked McCool backward through the aisle of the stadium by pushing against her fist, asking her why she’s resisting his push in order to make his point—that pushing against someone else won’t make you safer.

Robbins didn’t quit there. He then implied that women have become a liability in the workplace because of the movement and used an example about one of his “very powerful” friends.

“I was just with someone the other day, very famous man, very powerful man,” he said. “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.”

McCool stood her ground and reiterated that she believed that Robbins was misusing his platform to do a disservice to the #MeToo movement. After trying to compare the #MeToo movement to technology—and how people misuse technology—and even reminding his audience that Jesus told people not to judge others, he said he refused to apologize to McCool.

“This is what so many people are doing—they’re just saying they’re sorry … ,” he said. “I’m not here to comply.”  

Almost a month later, Robbins’ remarks have been launched into virality because of a video posted by ThisNow on Twitter.

Tarana Burke—an activist who first used the term “Me Too” in 2006 to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment in society—responded to Robbins in a lengthy thread on Twitter.

And she wasn’t the only person to tweet their disgust at Robbins’ comments.

https://twitter.com/yashar/status/982500942867259393

Jennifer Connelly, a spokeswoman for Robbins, told Vice that in the full context of his speech, Robbins’s remarks about the #MeToo movement were not derogatory and offered the following statement:

“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.”

Vice also noted that Robbins’s team offered to send further video of the seminar on the condition that the publication sign a confidentiality agreement and not report on the contents of the video. The news site declined that offer. His team also declined to answer follow-up questions about the content of his remarks.

The 58 year-old’s website says he is the author of six internationally bestselling books and has “empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries through his audio, video, and life training programs.” More than 4 million people have attended his live seminars, and he has more than 3 million followers on Twitter.

 Update 12:24pm CT, April 8: Robbins has officially apologized for his encounter, saying he respects the #MeToo movement and everything for which it stands. Even though he’s worked for 40 years to improve people’s lives, he also said he needs to make more of an effort to connect with those who are in the #MeToo movement.

Said Robbins: “I am committed to being part of the solution.”

Here’s his full statement.

 

Tess Cagle

Tess Cagle

Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.