BuzzFeed News has been accused of using illegal and unethical means to obtain some information used in its recent bombshell accusing self-help guru Tony Robbins of sexual wrongdoings, according to a cease-and-desist letter obtained by Fox News -- but BuzzFeed is standing by its reporting.
BuzzFeed News reported that its “yearlong investigation” on Robbins was “based on leaked recordings, internal documents, and dozens of interviews with fans and insiders.” The result was a bombshell article published on May 17 headlined, “Leaked records reveal Tony Robbins berated abuse victims, and former followers accuse him of sexual advances.”
BuzzFeed News’ Jane Bradley and Katie J.M. Baker reported that Robbins “used his fame to berate victims of rape and violence” while others “accused him of inappropriate sexual advances.” The site even used a sinister-looking image of Robbins with red tint evoking the devil.
But, one alleged victim who was not mentioned by name -- self-help author Analay Souza Campos, represented by Callagy Law -- has accused BuzzFeed of misinterpreting and deceptively editing recordings “obtained by illegal interception in violation of Florida’s Security of Communications Act,” which mandates the privacy of oral communications unless all parties give consent.
“We stand by our thorough reporting, which is based on records of Mr. Robbins berating victims of rape and domestic violence, and the testimony of former staffers and followers who accused him of inappropriate sexual advances,” BuzzFeed spokesperson Matt Mittenthal told Fox News.
Robbins has been accused of a variety of inappropriate actions, and more accusers have stepped forward -- but Fox News is told Souza Campos doesn’t want to be involved.
The cease-and-desist letter called for BuzzFeed to stop using the recording, remove the audio from its website and social media pages, delete the article, end further discussion of the alleged abuse related to Souza Campos and produce information related to how the recording was obtained. Failure to comply will result in “immediate” litigation, the letter stated.
“Analay and this firm believe strongly in true investigative journalism. The kind of journalism that stands for integrity and is in pursuit of the truth that exposes societal wrongs, liars, bullies, exploiters, and cheaters,” the letter stated. “What we are not supportive of is sensationalized misrepresentations clearly designed for a commercial purpose, to create ‘buzz’ to drive clicks to create advertising revenue.”
The BuzzFeed bombshell featured a powerful recording that apparently revealed Robbins berating abuse victims. The 67-second clip was taken from a December 2018 conversation between Souza Campos and Robbins that was actually over an hour long, according to the letter. The attorneys also accused BuzzFeed of excluding additional conversations that could have added important context.
Souza Campos said in a video posted to YouTube last week: “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 regardless of the experience that I am relating.”
“BuzzFeed intentionally and purposefully took select portions of a lengthy intervention with Anthony Robbins and only released a minute of it in a manner which leads the listener to believe that Analay was being ‘berated’ by Anthony Robbins when the exact opposite was true,” the letter said. “Analay believes Buzzfeed’s actions were deceptive and any further assertion made by Buzzfeed of those beliefs are additional and continuing damages.”
BuzzFeed recently accused lawyers for Robbins of threatening people who spoke about the self-help guru for the story.
“We stand by our thorough reporting, which is based on records of Mr. Robbins berating victims of rape and domestic violence, and the testimony of former staffers and followers who accused him of inappropriate sexual advances.”
Souza Campos recently wrote a self-help book titled, “How to Love Others Without Losing Yourself,” which praised Robbins directly on the back cover.
The letter accused BuzzFeed of distorting and manipulating facts to “provoke emotions” and “maximize the feelings that offend our society’s beliefs and values.” Souza Campos’ legal team said the BuzzFeed article was “nothing short of an invasion of privacy” and misrepresented an interaction between Robbins and the author.
“While BuzzFeed’s article clearly had an agenda to attract viewers by attacking Anthony Robbins’s methods and drive a narrative that creates more 'clicks' for its website, that interest does not excuse BuzzFeed’s unlawful use of illegally intercepted communications that were then edited to misrepresent the contents therein,” the letter stated.
Souza Campos’ attorneys slammed BuzzFeed for publishing conversations from an intimate, private group – which it compared to an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting where privacy is expected.
“As a result, BuzzFeed’s conduct has run afoul of the most basic laws surrounding privacy, including, but not limited to, Intrusion Upon Seclusion, False Light, and Public Disclosure of Private Facts,” the letter said. “Analay had an expectation of privacy that her oral communications would not be ‘secretly’ recorded or ‘leaked.’"
If BuzzFeed doesn’t comply with the letter’s demands, Souza Campos’ attorneys said they would file a suit for a variety of damages including anything “caused by the violation of the Security of Communications Act” and harming the author’s reputation.
“We want to avoid a lawsuit and, thus, advise you to meet our reasonable demands to avoid making this dispute our next litigation. As such, we advise you to review this letter carefully and take immediate and massive action before our firm and Analay pursue their rights against BuzzFeed to the fullest extent of the law and equity,” Sean R. Callagy, Esq., wrote.