Fitness guru Richard Simmons saying he is standing up for truth and privacy has filed a huge libel lawsuit against the National Enquirer, Radar Online and American Media, Inc. for "cruel and malicious" articles published between June 2016 and March of this year that suggested Simmons was transitioning from male to female. The reports include stories of "shocking sex surgery", breast implants, hormone treatments and consultations on medical castration.
Simmons' complaint filed on Monday claimed the tabloids' conduct as "particularly egregious". The lawsuit also contends that the publications have miscalculated and thought the fitness guru would not sue on the belief that he would not want to appear as frowning upon the act of transitioning from one gender to another. In his complaint, Simmons claimed that The National Enquirer and Radar Online have cheaply and crassly commercialized and sensationalized an issue that should be treated with respect and sensitivity. It also claimed that principles of freedom of speech and press may protect their prerogative to mock and degrade the LGBTQ community. But it insisted that "freedom to speak is not freedom to defame". The lawsuit further said that Simmons has the legal right to insist that he not be portrayed as someone he is not.
The lawsuit becomes even more controversial as it is the first-ever defamation lawsuit over published reports of a supposed sex change and framing the suit as a stand for dignity and the right to have a gender identity.
The National Enquirer is known, however, for making its reports look defensible. Its editorial editor Dylan Howard was quoted in an interview as saying their sources are given polygraph tests ( lie detectors) and asked to sign a contract testifying that the information they provide is true.
Simmons took a break from his 40-year career in television and fitness in 2014. His absence from the media became the subject of much speculation. It is claimed in Simmons' complaint that some individuals have attempted to exploit Simmons' situation. Simmons claimed that a particular Mauro Oliveira blackmailed, extorted and stalked Simmons for a number of years with the intention of destroying his career and reputation. Oliveira was said to have contacted several press outlets including the National Enquirer and Radar and supposedly offered information on Simmons' disappearance in exchange for a fee. Oliveira told the publication that Simmons was being held hostage by a housekeeper who is into witchcraft, and on another occasion, as having gone through a sex change.
Merely two days after The National Enquirer came out with a story on Simmons' supposed sex change, Simmons claimed that Oliveira contacted him and offered to retract his claims, discredit the reports, and defend Simmons in exchange for money. Despite these, Simmons group claimed that the reports continued.
Simons is bringing four counts of libel as well as an invasion of privacy-false light charge. He is also demanding that the publications sued to stop publishing stories about his supposed sex change. He is also asking for an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. Simmons is also demanding a retraction and public apology from the publications. But the publications said they are standing by their stories which they said have solid proof, and are ready to fight Simmons on the lawsuit.