Richard Simmons has surfaced once again — this time in the legal arena.
Fitness expert Simmons — whose private lifestyle has made him the subject of headlines lately — has slapped National Enquirer with a libel lawsuit, over “cruel and malicious” reports that suggested Simmons had undergone a sex change.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, takes aim at reports from the Enquirer and its sister publication Radar Online, which is also named as a defendant in the suit.
According to the complaint, the publications “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.”
The suit continues, “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 lawsuit also calls out Mauro Oliveira, who’s identified himself as a longtime friend of Simmons’ who has claimed on the Missing Richard Simmons podcast that Simmons’ housekeeper, Teresa Reveles, is controlling the fitness icon’s life.
According to Monday’s suit, Oliveira has “blackmailed, extorted and stalked Mr. Simmons for several years,” and has contacted publications such as the Enquirer and Radar with “untrue” stories about Simmons, including that Simmons was undergoing a sex change.
“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 suit reads.
In June 2016, responding to TheWrap’s request for comment, Simmons’ publicist told TheWrap that an Enquirer report that Simmons was transitioning into a woman was “a complete fabrication and not true.”
In a statement, a spokesman for Enquirer and Radar parent company American Media Inc. — also a defendant in the suit — told TheWrap, “While we have not seen Mr. Simmons’ complaint, we stand by our reporting about him, all of which was based on solid sourcing, photos and videos. Should he choose to proceed with his lawsuit, we will defend it vigorously, and we look forward to the public vindication of our reports.”
Alleging libel and invasion of privacy, Simmons’ suit is seeking unspecified damages, along with an apology and retraction.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.