Richard Simmons is fighting back against the tabloids.
In a libel lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the fitness guru is calling out National Enquirer, Radar Online and American Media, Inc., for publishing "cruel and malicious" articles about him transitioning from male to female.
Stories appearing in those publications between June 2016 and March 2017 had headlines about Simmons' "shocking sex surgery," which the workout personality has denied he's undergone. The Associated Press, People and The Hollywood Reporter have obtained a copy of the suit.
According to THR, the complaint reads, "National Enquirer and Radar Online have miscalculated." The suit calls the reports "particularly egregious" — not because transitioning isn't OK, but because that isn't an accurate representation of Simmons' identity.
"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) 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."
People reports that Simmons is also calling out his former associate, Mauro Oliveira, for sharing the false and libelous sex-change information with National Enquirer and Radar Online, and having “blackmailed, extorted and stalked” him.
American Media, Inc., which owns both National Enquirer and Radar Online, directed USA TODAY to a statement online that references the lawsuit.
"For Mr. Simmons to claim that his privacy has been invaded is hypocritical when his entire livelihood is based upon the public consumption of his image," the statement reads. "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. ... We stand by our reporting about Mr. Simmons, and intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit and win public vindication of our reports."
AP reports that the lawsuit, which says Simmons often dressed in drag as part of "his well-known and long-standing burlesque-style entertainment persona," seeks unspecified damages as well as an apology and retraction for the stories.
Simmons has reluctantly been in the limelight recently after a podcast about his low profile, Missing Richard Simmons, became one of the most popular podcasts in the country. Since then, Simmons was hospitalized for indigestion and released.
When contacted by USA TODAY, Simmons' longtime representative, Tom Estey, had no comment on the reported lawsuit.
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