Miami-Dade County

Miami Mayor Suarez gives Tony Robbins key to city despite sexual misconduct accusations

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Miami Herald

Tony Robbins, a well-known self-help author who has been accused of groping women and other sexual misconduct, was honored by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez when the mayor gave Robbins the key to the city Wednesday and declared it “Tony Robbins Day.”

Robbins was the subject of a five-part investigative series published this year by BuzzFeed News that detailed allegations from multiple former staffers and followers that Robbins groped women, instructed them to touch themselves sexually and berated victims of rape and sexual violence. Women shared accounts of Robbins telling followers to stroke their breasts during an event, making inappropriate sexual advances, exposing himself to staffers and asking an interviewee how she felt about nudity. One woman said Robbins put her hand on his crotch and groped her breast at a seminar.

BuzzFeed News based its reporting on leaked recordings and transcripts, internal documents and dozens of interviews. The accounts of inappropriate behavior are from the 1980s, ‘90s and the early 2000s. In the wake of the reports, Simon & Schuster canceled plans to publish a new book co-authored by Robbins.

The allegations did not stop the figurehead of Miami’s government from showering Robbins with praise during a visit to City Hall on Wednesday. Suarez posed for a picture with Robbins Wednesday and posted it on social media, as first reported by Miami New Times.

“Tony embodies the selfless spirit of #Miami by using positivity, inspiration, and philanthropy to uplift others and enrich their lives,” Suarez wrote. “As he says, ‘when you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears.’ ”

Suarez also told Robbins he was receiving special recognition when he presented the key and a proclamation in a video that was posted to Robbins’ Instagram account.

“So this is special, not only because it’s you, obviously, but because we don’t often do both giving a proclamation proclaiming a day and also giving a key to the city,” Suarez said. “You’re a little bit north, but you’re always welcome here. This is sort of the key to our hearts and the key that lets you always feel welcome in the city of Miami.”

Suarez added: “It’s not my honor — it’s how our residents honor you.”

“Wow, I’m really touched,” Robbins told the mayor after receiving the key and proclamation. “Thank you. That’s gorgeous.”

A philanthropist and entrepreneur known for making a fortune from selling books and seminars, Robbins has denied the allegations and said BuzzFeed News is “flat-out lying.” His lawyers countered the claims by providing BuzzFeed News with many statements from employees vouching for Robbins’ character.

Early Thursday, Suarez provided the following statement to the Miami Herald in response to a question about his decision to honor Robbins.

“As a father, husband, brother to three incredibly accomplished women and as Mayor, I am always committed to women’s rights and hearing concerns of all women in our community,” he wrote. “My decision to present Tony Robbins with the key to the city of Miami is based solely on his decades of serving as a positive force. His ability to change lives, inspire and uplift people around the world through hope and philanthropy is something that resonates deeply with our community. It is my hope that, through these positive actions, we can spark important dialogue and build bridges between all races, genders and backgrounds.”

Robbins is in Miami this week for a multi-day seminar at AmericanAirlines Arena. The event, titled “Unleash the Power Within,” began Thursday. He also visited with the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police on Wednesday.

Jennifer Connelly, a spokeswoman for Robbins, provided the following statement to the Herald.

“The bullying by tabloid journalists and their reckless, vicious cancel culture agenda and manipulation of the facts to present a false, one-sided negative narrative supporting their predetermined agenda needs to stop,” Connelly wrote. “They continue to use Mr. Robbins as a convenient celebrity target. Mr. Robbins remains focused on helping and serving others and was honored to spend the day in the city of Miami to support the local community and first responders.”

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs in the city of Miami for the Herald, from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State award for revealing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He graduated from the University of Florida.