Tony Robbins claims he saved his employee from COVID — she says that’s a lie

The story Tony Robbins advised on his podcast was harrowing — if additionally a little convoluted. One of his workers members had come down with a fever of 102 when she began watching the information and freaking out. She went to the hospital, presumably with COVID-19, and commenced to hyperventilate. The medical doctors put her on a ventilator — then in a medically induced coma. “The doctor said … ‘If she doesn’t wake up in three weeks, we’ll declare her dead,’” Robbins recounted.

The self-help guru had been researching coronavirus remedies and determined stress from ventilators might harm the lungs. “I’m not saying these people are trying to harm. I think they’re all trying to help, but the research is now showing a very different component there,” he mentioned on the Tony Robbins Podcast. So Robbins requested a doctor good friend to name the hospital and persuade the girl’s medical doctors to decrease the stress. “As a result, four or five days later, she opened her eyes, which we’re so grateful for, and she’s still in the hospital but she’s healing,” Robbins mentioned.

The episode match neatly into Robbins’ self-aggrandizing coronavirus narrative. Since the early days of the pandemic, he’d been suspicious of the hysteria surrounding COVID-19. He advised staff in late March that the flu was worse than coronavirus, including: “We have lost our minds on this.” He additionally hosted two occasions amid the disaster.

Robbins’ spokesperson Jennifer Connelly mentioned that, since February: “Two small, private in-person meetings were held, and those were in compliance with federal, state and local regulations and guidance regarding COVID-19.”

As a coach, Robbins at all times taught those that that they had the power to alter their lives — not their wives or their pastors or their clergymen. The story he advised on his podcast highlighted how little medical doctors knew concerning the sickness they had been purported to be treating and underlined his personal heroism in saving her life.

But in response to a new federal lawsuit filed within the Southern District of New York, the story was largely fabricated. Debbie Kosta, the employee in query, is suing Robbins and his firm, Robbins Research International (RRI), saying he lied about his half in her restoration and made it almost not possible for her to return to work.

The grievance lays out a starkly totally different image of Tony Robbins than the inspirational coach he performs on social media. It says his group refused to let Kosta return to work part-time whereas she was recovering from COVID-19 and coping with a latest most cancers analysis. Instead, roughly three months after Kosta bought off a ventilator, the grievance alleges her managers gave her an ultimatum: return to work full-time or lose her job and her medical health insurance.

In a assertion, Robbins’ spokesperson mentioned: “When we were informed Ms. Kosta had contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized, Mr. Robbins and his organization inquired with compassion and support for her and have treated her fairly and consistent with all applicable laws. RRI answered all of her questions, provided all of her requested accommodations, and did not retaliate against her in any way. Ms. Kosta remains employed by RRI and the organization continues to pay the complete cost of her medical insurance, even though its legal obligation to do so ended in June.”

Kosta had been an employee of Robbins’ for 18 years when the pandemic arrived. She’d began working for him in Europe, then moved to New York and joined the gross sales crew within the United States.

Sales reps at RRI bought tickets to Robbins’ dwell occasions — multiday seminars with names like “Unleash the Power Within” and “Date with Destiny.” The world-famous coach taught folks to remove ache “for good” and urged followers to not “settle for an ordinary life when you can create an extraordinary one.” As such, tickets price between $600 and $3,000.

Some of Robbins’ shoppers had been coping with main life points. They had been drug addicts, alcoholics, or philanderers. To them, Robbins’ philosophy of self-empowerment was fully new. It allowed them to take management of their lives and remodeled them into loyal followers alongside the best way.

But Kosta wasn’t like that. She’d at all times had excessive shallowness and a relentlessly optimistic perspective. Robbins’ curriculum reminded her of Greek philosophy, and whereas she believed in what he was educating, she didn’t worship him like others appeared to. She simply needed to assist folks change their lives.

What stood out to Kosta was Robbins’ supply. He’d run onstage to pulsing music, high-fiving and shouting like a maniac. And it labored. “I saw it, it was like, ‘Oh, people listen to this,’” Kosta says. “People actually like high-fiving and hugging.”

Back in New York, Kosta turned certainly one of Robbins’ prime performing gross sales reps, in response to the grievance. The gig was commission-only, however there have been bonuses for individuals who bought a lot. One nameless employee who labored on the gross sales crew mentioned they frequently made $80,000 a 12 months in bonuses alone. Kosta preferred the hustle and was prepared to skip holidays if it meant succeeding at work.

Debbie Kosta in New York City the place she moved to from Europe to hitch Robbin’s gross sales crew.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Over the subsequent 9 years, Kosta made a life for herself and her two younger daughters in New York City. She was in a position to ship them to a good prep college in Manhattan and take them to Europe within the summers. But the actual cash went to Tony Robbins. After a significantly large occasion, Kosta says he known as her to congratulate her on how a lot enterprise she was bringing in.

Then, in early 2020, issues began to shift. Robbins’ greatest occasion was scheduled to happen in San Jose, California, in March. “Unleash the Power Within” was a four-day seminar that taught folks to “unlock and unleash the forces inside you to break through your limitations and take control of your life.” Unfortunately, some nervous that a 12,000-person occasion might unleash a bunch of coronavirus.

Less than a week earlier than the occasion, Robbins was compelled to cancel. Attendees began calling to get their a refund, sending the gross sales crew into a panic. RRI had a brutal coverage that meant every refund got here out of staff’ commissions. Some crew members went from making nicely over $100,000 to not having the ability to make their mortgage funds.

In late March, Robbins supplied staff a stipend of roughly $5,000 a month and urged them to “step the fuck up,” in response to audio leaked to The Verge. They had been advised they’d have to pay Robbins again by the tip of the 12 months. The following month, in April, RRI obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) mortgage from the federal authorities.

(In a assertion emailed to The Verge, Robbins’ spokesperson wrote: “RRI properly and legally applied and received PPP support and has used those funds in compliance with the program’s rules.”)

The information wasn’t nice for Kosta, however she was coping with larger issues. She’d developed a excessive fever and was having a troublesome time respiration. Her daughter Stella, a 19-year-old movie scholar at Hunter College, had by no means seen her mother so sick. On April twelfth, when Kosta’s fever had been hovering at 104 for 3 days, Stella determined to name an ambulance. “She’s very strong and upbeat, so seeing her so weak, barely able to string sentences together, not breathing, it was very mind-boggling to me,” she says.

Stella had watched the vans of lifeless our bodies lining the streets in Manhattan. Everyone she knew both had COVID or knew somebody who’d died from it. “I was just like, ‘My mom cannot become one of those people,’” she says.

At the hospital, medical doctors put Kosta on a ventilator, then in a medically induced coma. Robbins known as Stella to see how her mom was doing. This is the place Robbins’ telling of the story actually diverges from the reality, in response to Kosta.

Robbins mentioned that Stella did her analysis and located that the longer her mother was on a ventilator, the extra doubtless she was to die. “The daughter went crazy,” he mentioned on his podcast. “She said, ‘You put her in the coma. She came in with a cough and a fever and shortness of breath…’”

But Stella says none of that’s true. “I’m not knowledgeable enough,” she says, bewildered. “Whatever the doctors were telling me, I was believing it.” At one level, she says she requested the medical doctors how for much longer her mom must be on a ventilator. “But I was never like, ‘Take her off right now,’” she provides. “Why would I ever do that? I was just asking, ‘How can you make her better?’ But I never went against the ventilator. The ventilator is what saved her.”

The grievance additionally says that Robbins advised Kosta’s shoppers he was the one who satisfied the medical doctors to take her off the ventilator. And, it alleges that Sage Robbins, Tony’s spouse, known as Stella to “pry information from her regarding Ms. Kosta’s condition.” Kosta’s legal professional, Chris Albanese, of the employment regulation agency White, Hilferty and Albanese, says: “Tony and his wife went out of their way to harm her, what kind of person would do that?”

(Robbins’ spokesperson says the “allegations concerning RRI, Mr. Robbins and his wife, are false.”)

Robbins took benefit of Kosta’s state of affairs for his personal profit, the grievance provides. He made it seem to be she was overreacting about her signs due to the information. “I talked to him personally and told him about the 104 fever and how she couldn’t breathe,” Stella notes. “For him to turn around and say, ‘Oh, she had 102 fever and then watched the news and started hyperventilating’ — it was just so shocking. It’s a betrayal. I took lessons from his events at heart and tried to change my life with them. Now I’m just wondering, ‘Well, how much have you been lying then? How many of your stories and how many of your experiences that you used to teach us are lies?”

Kosta stayed in a coma till early May. Then, miraculously, she began to get higher. When she lastly bought residence from the hospital on May fifth, she might barely stroll across the block or converse a full sentence with out dropping her breath. But she was alive. Then her medical doctors found a progress on her chest. They mentioned mentioned she’d doubtless want six months to completely get better, in response to the lawsuit.


Debbie Kosta and her two daughters in New York City.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Kosta was on New York State Paid Family Leave, nevertheless it was set to expire on the finish of June. She knew she wasn’t nicely sufficient to return to work; she nonetheless wanted surgical procedure to take away the expansion. Talking on the cellphone all day together with her voice ravaged from the ventilator appeared not possible.

According to the lawsuit, she emailed HR to see if she might have extra day off. They mentioned no. If she didn’t return in July, she’d lose her medical health insurance. Kosta requested to scale back her hours. She was a commissioned-based employee who labored from residence, so the request appeared fairly cheap. But RRI refused, the grievance says. They supplied her $15,000 in severance and inspired her to go on incapacity.

“Debbie Kosta was at the peak of her sales career when she contracted coronavirus,” mentioned Vincent White, Kosta’s different legal professional. “Instead of supporting a woman who had not only supported his organization but enriched him personally, Tony Robbins left her without reasonable accommodation for her disability. She has lost a tremendous amount of earning potential during this time, and frankly it is impossible to put a number on the emotional damages Ms. Kosta has endured at the hands of a company that claims to lift up, not break down, the human spirit.”

Kosta’s grievance, which was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forward of its submitting in federal courtroom in New York City, says that her request to scale back her hours was a cheap lodging, and RRI’s refusal to grant it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Robbins had been strolling a skinny line between COVID-19 skepticism and denial. He didn’t doubt that the illness existed, however he hinted that the information protection surrounding the demise price was exaggerated. Then, in August 2020, he began selling a coronavirus vaccine on Facebook, designed by his good friend and longtime collaborator Peter H. Diamandis. Diamandis’ firm, Covaxx, is backed by Prime Movers Lab, a enterprise capital agency the place Robbins works as a enterprise strategist and companion.

Jennifer Connelly, Robbins’ spokesperson, mentioned: “Mr. Robbins has invested in one of several companies working on the development of an effective COVID vaccine.”

The perceived change upset his followers. “I can’t believe what I am actually reading from Tony Robbins who said during 7 day challenge that Covid 19 equivalent of the Flu,” one wrote on Facebook. “What a sell out Tony Robbins turned out to be promoting a ‘safe vaccine’ by one of his Business partners. I’m done with this Guru!” Another wrote: “No thanks Tony how much cash do you have invested in this vaccine?!?!”

The reply, in response to Pitchbook, may very well be near $2.85 million, which is the quantity Covaxx raised in May, in a funding spherical led by Prime Movers Lab. It would possibly assist clarify Robbins’ core philosophy — not self-empowerment, or private progress, however capitalism. America’s primary coach would possibly say his mission is to “help individuals and businesses succeed.” But in response to some staff, the person he’s most focused on serving to is himself.


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