Best-selling author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins was filmed using the N-word during a seminar in the 1980s, according to video footage obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Robbins reportedly repeated the racial slur when sharing an anecdote from a previous speaking engagement to a predominately black crowd. Robbins said he suggested to the crowd that black people who were offended by being called the N-word “are still a slave.”
“As long as someone calls you n—- and get that kind of response, I seen you right now, where you’re ready to explode, then what you’ve done is given that person absolute control over you,” Robbins said in the video. “You have no control in your life. You are still a slave.”
Robbins also recounted that he urged the predominately black crowd to “stand up” and sing a song where they call each other the N-word. The self-help guru claimed he offered the tip for retaining one’s self-control after being called a racial slur.
“I’d like to have you be free. Because I’m free and I’m white,” Robbins said. “So why don’t you pretend that we’re going to get you free right now.”
“Trust me just for a moment,” he continued. “Pretend that I’m black.”
Robbins said he advised the black audience members to follow his lead by singing and dancing to the lyrics: “I’m a n—-, you’re a n—-, be a n—- too” and “I’m a h–ky, you’re a h–ky …”
“‘I said ‘I’m a h–ky n—-, you’re a n—- h–ky,'” he continued.
Robbins’ attorneys claimed the purpose of the seminar was to address “racial biases and disparity” and suggested the news outlet’s reporting was couched in “bias and hostility … amounting to constitutional malice.”
“The excerpts … show only a portion of the presentation and a parody and demonstration by Mr. Robbins how racial prejudice and disparity is sometimes perceived, manifests and responded to,” attorney Brian Wolf said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “By all accounts, the presentation was positive and was accepted in the context in which it was conducted.”
“Moreover, any suggestion that Mr. Robbins is somehow racist or insensitive to the African-American community is absurd and false,” Wolf added.
(The full video is over an hour long, and it was posted to YouTube in 2014. The segment in question begins at roughly the 43-minute mark.)
The footage of Robbins comes amid a series of unflattering news reports broken by BuzzFeed News in recent weeks. Robbins is accused of making unwanted sexual advances towards fans and employees, and he was criticized for verbally abusing a woman who was emotionally and physically abused by her husband.