Richard Simmons is suing the National Enquirer over a series of articles which claimed he was transitioning from male to female.
The lawsuit which alleges libel against the Enquirer, calls the articles “cruel and malicious”.
They were published between June 2016 and March 2017, and played on the fact that the fitness guru had withdrawn from public life.
Headlines included “shocking sex surgery”, and suggesting that he was undergoing hormone replacement therapy and that he had gotten breast implants.
Monday’s lawsuit describes the actions by the Enquirer as “particularly egregious”, that it had suggested Simmons would not sue in case he appeared to be in opposition to those who transition.
“National Enquirer and Radar Online have miscalculated,” reads the complaint, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“The National Enquirer and Radar Online have cheaply and crassly commercialised and sensationalised an issue that ought to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Principles of freedom of speech and press may protect their prerogative to mock and degrade the LGBTQ community. But freedom to speak is not freedom to defame. Mr Simmons, like every person in this nation, has a legal right to insist that he not be portrayed as someone he is not. Even the most ardent supporter of sexual autonomy and LGBTQ rights is entitled to be portrayed in a manner that is truthful.”
Simmons’ attorney Neville Johnson, continues: “The law of defamation and false light invasion of privacy exist to vindicate this elemental right. The law protects the right of every person to be treated with decency and dignity, free from the deliberate propagation of falsehoods that have no motivation other than exploitation. It is to vindicate that right, and the rights of all persons to be portrayed with dignity and honesty with regard to their sexual identity, that Mr. Simmons files this lawsuit.”
The reknowned fitness instructor, says he had withdrawn from public life in early 2014.
He says that his absence from being on television had drawn attention to himself
This included a podcast being launched named ‘Missing Richard Simmons’.
“Starting from around May 2015, Mauro Oliveira, an individual who has blackmailed, extorted and stalked Mr. Simmons for several years with the intention of destroying the career and reputation of Mr. Simmons, contacted several press outlets, including the National Enquirer and Radar, and offered information on Mr. Simmons’ disappearance in exchange for a fee,” the complaint reads.
Oliveira had told various stories to the Enquirer in several instances, states the complaint.
“All of these assertions were untrue, and were merely attempts by Mr. Oliveira to gain a profit in exchange for providing a false narrative about Mr. Simmons’ leave of absence,” continues the complaint.
“While pitching around these ideas, Mr. Oliveira was simultaneously blackmailing Mr. Simmons, sending him emails and threatening to destroy his reputation with damaging press coverage unless Mr. Simmons paid Mr. Oliveira to stop.”
The lawsuit seeks to demonstrate that Oliveira was never a reliable source on which the newspaper could base articles.
Despite offers from Simmons for the paper to retract the headlines, the National Enquirer published a new article on 15 June repeating the claims.
It stated that he was “the latest Hollywood star to secretly undergo a sex change”, adding that he has “opted for a breast implant surgery, hormone therapy, and a host of other invasive changes to create the transformation the Enquirer reported.”