Tony Robbins is suing Buzzfeed for a series of stories the website has published about the popular motivational speaker.
“Far from the watchdogs they once were, too many members of today’s tabloid and entertainment media ignore traditional journalistic ethics, values, and standards. Too often, in the hyper-competitive, celebrity-driven and political [sic] charged environment that currently exists, they fail to verify facts and vet sources, and are permitted to present predetermined stories supporting an agenda or outcome they believe will sow the most outrage and engagement with their target audiences whether true or not,” Robbins said in a statement on Friday.
“For this reason, I am now suing BuzzFeed following a premeditated and malicious campaign against me and my life’s work.”
Buzzfeed published the sixth article accusing Robbins of wrongdoing this week.
Robbins said that Buzzfeed’s articles, which have accused the self-help guru of abusing his position, making inappropriate advances towards employees and event attendees, and berating abuse victims, are full of falsehoods and have prompted many people to dispute the claims.
One of them is Kate Ritasse, a former assistant to Robbins. She released a statement after a story quoted her, saying, “The only accurate part of what BuzzFeed said about me in their article about Tony Robbins is that Tony’s work truly impacted me and my family for the better. His work was transformational for our relationship and our life.”
“BuzzFeed told me that they wanted to talk to me so I could provide balance to their story as a positive perspective and then they twisted my words in a negative way,” she added.
Another woman quoted by Buzzfeed posted a video on YouTube refuting Buzzfeed’s stories.
“Buzzfeed has contacted me to hear about my intervention with Tony … and how was my experience. I related my experience. I told them how it had changed my life, how my life and the way I see everything around me has totally changed,” said Analay Souza Campos.
“Buzzfeed just basically continues to try to use pieces of the intervention out of context to make their point, the point that they want to make,” she added before profusely thanking Robbins.
The logo of BuzzFeed is seen on its website on a computer screen in a file photograph (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
Buzzfeed has not issued a statement on the lawsuit. The website didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Robbins said in a statement that one of Buzzfeed’s articles, claiming he “punished his followers” by making them drink an “unidentified brown liquid” was quickly rebutted by his team, which shared the recipe for the drink and a video of why the drink is used.
“Unsurprisingly, Buzzfeed did not acknowledge key facts we shared since that would have ruined their narrative that I was somehow doing something injurious to my attendees,” Robbins said.
He noted that the Pew Research Center cites Buzzfeed as “the least trusted news source,” or last in a field of 36 media outlets that were listed. He also noted that Buzzfeed’s editor-in-chief Ben Smith said in 2014 that he rejects “formalistic rules like ‘you have to have two sources to go with something.’”
“It’s easy to get nine sources to say the same thing and still get it wrong. I prefer to rely on smart reporters and on Twitter,” Smith said at the time, suggesting that the outlet publishes stories with little information and updates it as reporters get more details. The outlet also openly says that in reporting on some topics, “there aren’t two sides to every story.”
The outlet is also infamous for publishing the Trump-Russia dossier without confirming any of the dossier’s allegations and for getting other stories wrong about the investigation into the dossier, including a claim it later corrected about Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer.
Buzzfeed, including a reporter who has worked on articles about Robbins, is also charged in another pending lawsuit, having allegedly “purposely, consistently, with motive and agenda omit critical facts they were privy to before publishing the articles such that they knew they were not publishing the truth.”
In a statement announcing the suit, Jennifer Connelly, Robbins’ spokeswoman, said that, “The conduct of BuzzFeed and its reporters is not journalism. The online tabloid has a clear record of manipulating events, memories, and accounts to support its series of increasingly absurd and sensationalized claims that maliciously paint Mr. Robbins in a false light.”
Jane Bradley, one of the reporters working on the series about Robbins, said that the latest accusations against him include him being accused of assaulting a minor. The allegation was “corroborated by dozens of others, eyewitnesses & even a teenage diary,” she wrote on Twitter after the suit was announced.
Another reporter, Katie Baker, said in a tweet: “Tony Robbins has been accused of sexually assaulting a high schooler at a summer camp. @jane__bradley and I tracked down eyewitnesses, dozens of sources, teenage diary entries and the alleged victim herself to tell this story.”