Remember those tabloid reports claiming that the reason why Richard Simmons hasn’t been seen in public for years is because he’s in the process of transitioning into a woman named Fiona?
Simmons does, and he’s siccing his lawyers on the National Enquirer, Radar Online and American Media Inc. for publishing the reports of his “shocking sex surgery.”
In court documents obtained by ET, Simmons is suing over reports that claimed he was transitioning from male to female, had received hormone treatments and breast implants, and was even exploring medical castration.
In the complaint, filed in a Los Angeles court on Monday, Simmons’ lawyers claim the tabloids’ reports were “particularly egregious” because of the assumption that the flamboyant fitness guru wouldn’t fight back over fears he’d be perceived as being unsupportive of transgender rights.
Simmons’ lawyers are fighting back by stating that the tabloids “have miscalculated. The National Enquirer and Radar Online have cheaply and crassly commercialized and sensationalized 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.”
The suit 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 lawsuit also singles out Mauro Oliveira, who has claimed to be an insider in various tabloid reports, and alleged that Simmons’ retreat from the public eye was due to his transition, while also claiming in other reports that Simmons was being held hostage by his housekeeper.
“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,” says the complaint, alleging that Oliveira attempted to blackmail Simmons.
“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 lawsuit. “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 also calls out the Enquirer for its cover about Simmons, featuring “an old image of Mr. Simmons from 2013 (before his disappearance), dressed in costume as a female, which he has done openly over the years consistent with his well-known and longstanding burlesque-style entertainment persona. Accompanying the image of the 2013 photo of Mr. Simmons was a large bold headline, taking up half of the cover page, proclaiming ‘Richard Simmons: He’s Now a Woman!'”
Simmons is bringing four counts of libel against the defendants, as well as an invasion of privacy-false light charge.
The suit is asking that “defendants be enjoined and restrained from continuing to disseminate articles about how Simmons underwent a sex change,” and also demands an unspecified amount for compensatory and punitive damages.
In addition, Simmons is seeking an apology and a retraction of the story.
Following the filing of Simmons’ suit, Radar Online and the Enquirer fired back with a statement indicating the tabloids won’t be going down without a fight, claiming their reports were based on “credible sources who were in Mr. Simmons’ inner circle.”
In addition, the statement also includes numerous photos of Simmons dressed as a woman, as well as one in which the shirtless star appears to have small, female-like breasts. These photos, notes the statement, “are real — and speak for themselves.”
Radar Online and the Enquirer further state that they “stand by our reporting about Mr. Simmons, and intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit and win public vindication of our reports,” and plan to “aggressively pursue our ongoing investigation into his life and who is really behind this bizarre and meritless lawsuit.”
You can read the statement in its entirety below:
For decades, Richard Simmons has used his outrageous behaviour to build his brand and his bank account. For Mr. Simmons to now claim that his privacy has been invaded is hypocritical when his entire livelihood is based upon the public consumption of his image.
To wit, Mr. Simmons signed a lucrative merchandising deal with a major branding company in April to handle licensing of his name and likeness.
At the same time, he protests that he is entitled to privacy and therefore should not be subjected to scrutiny of the media, which has raised reasonable questions about his health and whereabouts since he disappeared from the public eye almost four years ago.
This is a legitimate news story that demands coverage. It is the business of Radar and The National ENQUIRER — and has been for the past 90 years — to report on what goes on behind the closed doors of Hollywood.
Moreover, Mr. Simmons is raising a false equivalency in suggesting that Radar and The ENQUIRER’s coverage of gender identity somehow implies that the publication has a stance or position on this. We do not.
Indeed, it is ironic that Mr. Simmons claims to be an avid supporter of the LGBTQ community while at the same time alleges that he was defamed by Radar and The ENQUIRER report that he had transitioned into a female.
At the end of the day, how Mr. Simmons lives his life is news and of interest to our readers.
Our story was based on credible sources who were in Mr. Simmons’ inner circle. The photos provided to Radar and The ENQUIRER, below, are real — and speak for themselves.
We stand by our reporting about Mr. Simmons, and intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit and win public vindication of our reports.
We will also aggressively pursue our ongoing investigation into his life and who is really behind this bizarre and meritless lawsuit.