So the video above is long and not professional, but it does capture the entire exchange between motivational speaker Tony Robbins and Nanine McCool, who paid to see him a few weeks ago at his “Unleash the Power Within” tour in San Jose, California. There is a shorter, edited version (not sure who produced it) that whitewashes much of the exchange.
Robbins was doing his usual spiel about getting past obstacles to reach your fullest potential, when he made some disparaging comments about the #MeToo movement, declaring that women who wrap themselves in the #MeToo mantle were trying to grab significance for themselves at the expense of others (read: men).
McCool tried to point out that there are very real barriers for which the MeToo movement is trying to raise awareness, including sexual assaults, which McCool herself has been a victim of.
Robbins’ response, to put it generously, was not sympathetic.
McCool responded: “I hear you mischaracterizing the #MeToo movement. Certainly there are people who are using it for their own personal devices, but there’s 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…And I think you do the whole movement a disservice by characterizing it the way you have.”
Robbins said he didn’t want to be misinterpreted, and invited McCool to join him at the center of the room. He then asked her to hold out her fist. When she did, he put his hand on her fist and pushed her backwards.
“So you’re telling me the the harder I push, the more you’re gonna comply, and I’m going to be safe,” Robbins said as he pushed McCool backwards. After a little back and forth banter between Robbins and the woman, he stopped and said, “When you push someone else, it doesn’t make you more safe. It just makes them angry.”
During the 11-minute exchange, he also brought up Hollywood. That’s where, Robbins said, pressure from the #MeToo movement is “the most intense,” adding “it breaks my heart for women and not for men.” He then shared the story of a “very powerful man” who told Robbins he’d passed over a highly qualified woman for a job because she was “very attractive” and therefore “too big a risk.”
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Catch that? First a man who is significantly larger than the woman he’s interacting with (Robbins is 6’7″, an intimidating size for most people) attempts to physically dominate her to make his point, saying that women need to be responsible not to anger their aggressors so that they aren’t hurt worse. Way to be an open abuser there, Tony.
And then he feels bad for all the “attractive” women who can’t get hired for good jobs, because it’s a “risk” for the men involved. Because it’s a reasonable assumption that attractive women should be available to their male bosses?
Robbins’ organization reached out to #MeToo founder Tarana Burke for some damage control. But Burke wasn’t having it.
UPDATE: The Twitter blowback against Robbins has been swift and brutal. He released a statement of apology today. Whether his word will match his future actions remain to be seen.