Self-help guru Tony Robbins is under fire for remarks he made about the #MeToo movement during a March 15 motivational speech in San Jose, California, with video of a tense encounter between Robbins and a member of the audience who called him out for his comments going viral nearly a month later after being posted on social media.
During his speech, Robbins criticized #MeToo, stating that women were using it as a “drug” to “try to get significance,” reports Mediaite.
That was too much for audience member Nanine McCool, a survivor of sexual abuse, who interrupted Robbins to tell him he is missing the point of what #MeToo is all about.
Insisting he wasn’t “knocking the #MeToo movement,” Robbins said he was “knocking victimhood,” telling the crowd that “anger is not empowerment.
“Who should throw the stone? You shouldn’t throw that stone if you live in a f**king glass house. Is there any one of us that hasn’t done something that we prefer we’d not or that we’re embarrassed by or that was hurtful even if we didn’t intend it to?”
McCool, however, wasn’t buying it, telling Robbins he was “mischaracterizing the #MeToo movement,” explaining: “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.”
As they debated, the six-foot-seven Robbins walked to McCool in the audience and asked her to hold out her fist, pushing his own fist against hers with enough force to push her back several steps, telling her that “when you push someone else it doesn’t make you more safe, it just makes them angry.”
McCool discussed her encounter with Robbins in an interview with VICE.
“I thought, OK, we’re going to fist bump. Then he started pushing me. I thought he wanted me to show how strong I could be and push back, but that’s not what he wanted. He wanted me to move backward. [I was] thinking he’s going to transform it into some kind of awareness. I don’t know, it’s Tony Robbins, there’s going to be some lesson here that’s gonna be useful to me. I initially started pushing back but he immediately pushed back harder. There was no way. He was going to knock me on my ass if I didn’t step backward so I quit pushing against him, I just started walking backward. As long as he was pushing me, I was moving.”
Attendees at the event told VICE that Robbins seemed to be “almost intimidating” McCool during the fist bump.
Robbins also shared an anecdote about a client, “A very famous man, a very powerful man who was 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.”
While McCool’s encounter with Robbins hadn’t been widely publicized, that changed when the video was shared online by Now This.
Once the video went viral, numerous people took to Twitter to slam Robbins, including civil rights activist Tarana Burke (who coined the #MeToo hashtag) and actress Daryl Hannah.
Following the backlash, Robbins issued a statement on Facebook in which he says his remarks
“failed to reflect the respect I have for everything Tarana Burke and the #MeToo movement has achieved.”
He adds: “I apologize to suggesting anything other than my profound admiration for the #MeToo movement… sometimes, the teacher has to become the student and it is clear that I still have much to learn.”