The Questionable Reporting of Buzzfeed on Tony Robbins and Who to Believe

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Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Earlier today, Buzzfeed released an expose on the self-help guru, Tony Robbins.

Robbins is well-known in the motivational community. He has hosted thousands of events, wrote a New York Times Best-Selling book, and even has a Netflix documentary about him.

But his methods are unique, to say the least. At 6'7", he towers over most people around him. Robbins’ deep voice and straight-forward manner can be intimidating to some and inspiring for others.

Robbins’ conferences ramp up the intensity even more. Boasting long hours, window-less locations, and ending the night with a casual walk across burning coals at 1 am… his events can be a lot to handle.

But that’s his method, that’s who Tony Robbins is. He is a confident man willing to test the limits of his followers to try to instill confidence and self-action in them.

So while I am incredibly unsure of who is telling the truth, because I hate to discredit any actually true stories, Buzzfeed’s article was a bit faulty and basically grasping at threads.

It’s hard to be able to trust a news source when a nearly 8,000-word article has about two people quoted that gave their actual names. I understand that some people might still be under NDAs, but something about this seems fishy. Especially the allegations made by women that occurred almost a decade ago.

It’s public knowledge that speakers don’t want their events recorded. If they were, anyone could watch it from home, and there wouldn’t be an exclusivity incentive to attend the events in person.

The way that Buzzfeed reported this rule at Tony Robbins’ event seems like a bit of twisting facts in favor of the publication.

Robbins posted a video of a women’s encounter with Buzzfeed. She recalls the publication contacting her to ask about her experience at Tony’s events. The woman explained to the publication how Tony had changed her life, and she never heard from Buzzfeed again. They didn’t use her story in the final piece either.

I imagine this can’t be the only case. And when you’re only searching for evidence that supports your claim, is that ethical reporting?

Maybe I’m just grasping at threads now, but I’ve been following this story all day. I referred back to it on multiple occasions and have since seen the feature image change from an all-black background with ominous white writing to a graphic of Robbins morphing into a red and yellow, devil-like illustration to the current photo of Robbins up on stage.

I mean, it’s nothing to raise the alarm over but what’s up with that?

On the other hand, if the allegations are true, it would be a grave injustice to belittle the victims.

And when it comes to trusting a man that has built his empire solely off of a carefully crafted persona, it’s hard to jump on his boat as well.

The self-help world is an interesting industry in terms of how it operates. Unlike doctors, where if you don’t see the results promised you could hold them accountable, self-help gurus have basically zero accountability.

So though they may promise you a new outlook on life, change in your career, or manifestation of the love of your life, there are no guaranteed results.

But nonetheless, their image as someone who shakes the world of their followers needs to be created. And to do so lies solely in how well gurus can market themselves and convince people they can change lives. And with that kind of work comes a carefully molded online presence and sometimes a lot of exaggeration.

So it’s no surprise that Robbins’ open letter here on Medium makes us question the legitimacy of Buzzfeed’s article. Robbins has a team or marketers and PR specialists backing him up and the wealth to hire the best for writing a convincing counter-statement.

I worry, about how much trust we put into self-help leaders. If the past has shown us anything, these people can take advantage of their power or even take things to a far too extreme level.

After reading the article on Buzzfeed for myself, I hastily sent the link to a friend of mine, Jake (name changed because if Buzzfeed can do it, so can I). He is an avid Tony Robbins fan — having even shelled out the money to go to one of his conferences in the past.

Before even reading the article, Jake refused to believe it. Exclaiming that no one could bring down Tony Robbins, Jake stated that his empire was too big, his followers too loyal.

And with everything aside, that worries me. The idea of a person having so much influence that, in the face of scandal, their reputation is too high to be tarnished. That given the potential of sexual harassment and provided the evidence of a recording where he berates a victim of rape, the possibility of Robbins having a fault is ludicrous.

That, in itself, is ludicrous.

Whatever the truth might be though, may peace, understanding and solace come to any actual victims. May the truth be sought, better reporting be done, and the innocent absolved.

And I hope the day comes that the whole truth is told from both parties.

Written by

Dating, relationship, and self-love writer. Anxious with dating? >> // IG: @WordsWithKirstie // //

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