Four More Women Have Accused Tony Robbins Of Sexual Misconduct
The self-help guru is accused of groping followers at his events, exposing himself to women assistants, and sexually harassing fans.
This is Part 2 of a BuzzFeed News investigation.
To read the rest of the series click here.
Four more women have come forward to accuse the self-help guru Tony Robbins of sexual misconduct in the wake of a BuzzFeed News investigation.
The women — three former followers and a personal assistant — said Robbins groped them, exposed himself, or made unwanted advances during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s.
BuzzFeed News revealed on Friday that Robbins has used his fame to berate victims of rape and violence, while former staffers and fans have accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior.
A total of nine former staffers and followers have now recounted incidents in which Robbins made sexual advances or was naked in front of them — and eight of them said they were upset by his actions.
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In new exclusive interviews, Kimberly Stokes, who worked as a live-in personal assistant for Robbins when she was 22 years old, told BuzzFeed News that he once walked into her bathroom while she was showering and “dropped his towel,” exposing himself. Stokes said that she had already rebuffed his advances once before.
Sophiah Koikas said that Robbins pulled her hand onto his crotch to feel his penis and groped her breast at a Hawaii seminar. Another woman, Mary Lantz, said that Robbins sexually harassed her at an event she attended in Ohio — telling her she was “driving him crazy,” kissing her, hugging her, and touching her breast.
A fourth woman, Lucie Galvez, said that Robbins asked her “How do you feel about nudity?” during an interview for a personal assistant job around 2001, when she was in her early twenties. She said that Robbins told her that the role would involve working in close quarters with him and his then-girlfriend, and that the couple might be naked. Galvez said that she found the interview “sexually inappropriate, almost predatory.”
“It felt like I was getting interviewed for sexual threesomes as opposed to an assistant’s job,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Robbins dismissed the latest allegations in a YouTube video posted shortly after this story was published, in which he accused BuzzFeed News of "flat-out lying." But he added that he was a "better human being than I was in my twenties and thirties" and apologized for any offense his actions at that time had caused.
“I’ve never claimed to be perfect and if there’s anything I’ve ever said or ever done that, sincerely, that offended anybody, hurt anyone’s feelings, or if they felt anything of that nature, I just didn’t support you, I apologize," he said. "It was certainly not my intention.”
His lawyers said in a statement that Robbins “absolutely denies” each of the allegations and “specifically denies that he engaged in any of the alleged conduct” with the four women. They said there were no records of any of the women lodging “any type of verbal or written complaint” with his company.
Before the publication of Friday’s story, Robbins' lawyers said he vehemently denied “engaging in any alleged ‘inappropriate sexual behavior’” and said he was “never intentionally naked” in front of staff. “To the extent that he may have been unclothed at various times in his home or in hotels when working while either dressing or showering, and whether a personal assistant may have been present for some reason at that time, Mr. Robbins has no recollection,” his lawyers said in a letter.
BuzzFeed News reported Friday that one former assistant to Robbins, Kate Rittase, said she considered seeing him naked to be part of her job and viewed his teachings as “life-transforming.” Robbins’ lawyers have since produced screenshots of messages in which Rittase claimed her statements to BuzzFeed News were taken out of context and reiterated that the life coach had always been “respectful, professional and appropriate” toward her.
Robbins is the world’s most famous self-help coach, and he claims to have helped millions of fans overcome their darkest difficulties, while building a multibillion-dollar business and working with celebrities including Oprah, Serena Williams, the Kardashians, Donald Trump, and Bill Clinton.
But he now faces mounting scrutiny, after more women have come forward with stories of inappropriate behavior.
Kimberly Stokes started working for Robbins in 1988. She said she had been abused as a child and was homeless after she left her family at the age of 14, and the new role meant living with the life coach and his first wife in San Diego.
Stokes said she got her job with Robbins after selling family heirloom jewelry to buy a plane ticket to one of his events. “I was using it to save my life,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Tony knew my whole background, so when he was taking advantage or when he was being inappropriate, he understood the scope of what was going on.”
Stokes said that the guru first hit on her after he took her to a mountain in his helicopter. When they landed, he told her that he found her “really attractive” and was interested in her romantic life, she said. Stokes said they briefly kissed but she refused to go any further, telling him she didn’t get involved with married men behind their wives’ backs. She worried that she “may have got hired for the wrong reasons” but carried on working at his house, she said.
Around a month later, when she was showering in her bathroom at Robbins’ home, Stokes said, she pulled back the shower curtain and saw him standing there in a towel. Stokes said Robbins then dropped his towel and exposed himself. She remembered “freaking out” and shouting at him to leave.
“I was furious, because it broke trust,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t bullshit. If I said no, I meant no.”
BuzzFeed News spoke with two other former Robbins staffers who confirmed that Stokes had told them about the incident shortly after it occurred. The men asked not to be named.
Stokes said that she felt “caught” afterward because she was in California alone, with no family, no savings, and no connections outside of Robbins’ world. She said she was fired eight months later for throwing a “wild party,” something she denies she did. “I felt retraumatized,” she said. “I did all of this to save myself and here I was in the middle of nowhere.”
Stokes said she decided to speak out about Robbins because “I just want him to stop his behavior towards women and I don’t want anybody else to be hurt.”
Robbins’ lawyers denied Stokes’ allegations and pointed out that she referred to her time working for him in a positive light on her website.
Sophiah Koikas attended a Robbins multiweek seminar in Hawaii in the early 1990s. She recalled standing with a group of people when Robbins walked by and started shaking his fans’ hands. “When he took mine he pushed it against his penis,” she told BuzzFeed News. “It freaked me out. ... I tried to pull my hand away as fast as I could, but he had a grip on my hand so tight and he wouldn't let go.”
At a firewalk during that same event, Robbins groped Koikas’s breast instead of touching her shoulder like he did with other participants, she said. “He cupped my whole left breast, grabbed it, and then shook it.”
A man from Robbins’ circle also approached Koikas with a message during the event, she said. “Tony thinks you’re cute. Would you like to know him and meet him?” she recalled him saying. She said she declined, saying she thought Robbins was married. The man “just shrugged off what I said,” she said.
Koikas added that she was upset by Robbins’ behavior but attended another event a few years later. “At the time, we didn’t talk about these issues,” she said. “We just thought he was a weird creep.”
She kept her experience to herself for years. “I didn't tell my family because I didn't want them to worry about me,” she said. A friend of Koikas’s confirmed to BuzzFeed News that she had confided about two years ago that Robbins had groped her breast and pressed her hand to his penis, and that a Robbins associate had asked Koikas if she wanted to “come back and meet him” but that she had declined.
While Koikas said she could not be absolutely certain of the exact dates, she said her memories of Robbins’ behavior were unwavering. She provided BuzzFeed News with event photos and a letter from a fellow attendee dated September 9, 1991.
Robbins’ lawyers denied her allegations and pointed to a video she posted on YouTube to raise doubts about her “reliability” as a source of information. The video shows Koikas posing by a tree in a long summer dress.
Mary Lantz said she attended her first Robbins seminar in Cleveland, Ohio. Her then-boyfriend bought her the ticket because she was going through a tough time. She had read Robbins’ books and considered herself a fan. (Lantz recalled that she attended the event around 1990. Robbins led seminars in Cleveland around that time, according to newspaper reports.)
Lantz said that Robbins singled her out for special attention from the start. When he spoke about the importance of body language in communication, she said, he jumped off the stage and walked over to her, picking her up and swinging her around. At that point, she said, she didn’t think too much of the attention.
But when the seminar paused for the first break, Lantz said that Robbins left the stage and beckoned her over to him. “He put his arm around me and he said — and I will never forget it — ‘Will you come and sit in the front row of my seminar every time? Because you’re driving me crazy.’” She remembered him pulling her toward him in a hug, kissing her on the cheek, and wrapping his arm around her so that it was cupping the side of her breast.
“The whole thing was creepy. I was in amazement that he would do that in front of thousands of people,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I felt like it was sexual harassment. We didn’t have that word back then but I felt he was hitting on me.”
He told her to wait for him when he called for a lunch break, but she said she went for lunch alone. When she returned, she said, he asked her where she had gone. “Where was I supposed to be?” she recalled asking him. “With me,” she said he replied. When the event was over, Lantz said, a man who worked for Robbins came running up to her and told her that Robbins wanted her to come to dinner with him. She said she replied that she wasn’t hungry and quickly left the event.
BuzzFeed News reported Friday that two former bodyguards said they were repeatedly sent out to trawl audiences for attractive women on Robbins’ behalf, while two women said they had witnessed this happening or experienced it themselves. Robbins has denied sending security personnel into the crowd to solicit women, or making such approaches personally.
Lantz said that she was in such shock that when she got home from the event, she called a friend and told him everything that had happened. That friend, Robert Tackett, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Lantz called him that night to say “she was constantly being approached and hit on by Mr. Robbins.” He remembered her telling him about both the touching and the kiss. “I was concerned, and I tried to console her,” he said. “She was very upset about how things went.”
Several months after the incident, Lantz said she wrote a letter to Robbins’ corporate office to complain about his behavior, saying it had “ruined” the whole seminar for her. She said that she never received a response. Robbins’ lawyers said that the company was “unable to locate any records or information” on any of the women referenced by BuzzFeed News.
Reports of Robbins’ inappropriate sexual behavior span more than a decade, stretching into the early 2000s.
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Lucie Galvez grew up listening to Robbins’ tapes. Her mother was a big fan and bought her daughter tickets to a seminar in 2001 as a birthday present. Galvez said Robbins announced to the crowd that he was looking for a personal assistant and asked if anyone was interested — which lots of young women were. She said that when she approached him about the job, he gave her a card with his private pager number and told her he would expedite her application.
Galvez said that she was asked to fill out “all kinds” of personality tests, which included questions about her “level of confidentiality” and asked things like “If you saw something you disagree with, would you report it or keep your confidentiality agreement?” Robbins invited her to an interview in San Diego.
Robbins arrived at the interview in a helicopter, Galvez remembered. “His level of questions were just, whoa…” Galvez said. “I remember him asking me, ‘How do you feel about nudity?' and I thought, Okay, this is taking an odd turn.” She said Robbins told her that she would be working closely with him and his partner, and that she might encounter them “in the nude.” Galvez recalled him asking her how she would feel if he and his partner were in the shower or sleeping naked, or if she were giving him a massage. At one point he noted that she was “blushing,” she said, and asked if she was feeling uncomfortable. “I think, looking back, he enjoyed the shock value,” Galvez told BuzzFeed News.
“Absolutely it was a sexually inappropriate interview, it was almost predatory,” she said. “They’re telling you all the glamour of the job, the perks, how you’d be treated like royalty, all of that.” Looking back now, she said, “I see how he chose very young, impressionable people who he could mold.”
Galvez said Robbins offered her the job but she turned it down because of how uncomfortable the interview had made her.
In November 2014, Galvez described the interview to a friend in an email reviewed by BuzzFeed News — including details about how Robbins had asked her how uncomfortable she would feel if she saw him and his partner naked.
She told BuzzFeed News that she only chose to come forward after reading Robbins’ statement that he was never “intentionally naked” in front of staffers, “making the women with the courage to speak out come across as liars.”
“I felt a responsibility to step up and defend what they’re claiming,” she said. “I know my own personal experience resonates with what they claim.”
This story was updated to include comments from a YouTube video posted by Tony Robbins shortly after publication.