Richard Simmons’ lawsuit against the National Enquirer’s parent company could very well be transitioning toward a dismissal.
Fitness guru Simmons, who is suing the tabloid over reports that he had undergone a sex change, was handed a big setback on Wednesday, when a judge tentatively ruled to strike Simmons’ complaint against American Media Inc. and Radar Online LLC.
The ruling explored whether the mere act of inaccurately identifying someone as transgender is actionable or not.
“[T]he court now arrives at the heart of this issue: does falsely reporting that a person is transgender have a natural tendency to injury [sic] one’s reputation?” the ruling reads in part. “This court finds that because courts have long held that a misidentification of certain immutable characteristics do not naturally tend to injure one’s reputation, even if there is sizeable portion of the population who hold prejudices against those characteristics, misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation absent special damages.”
Simmons filed suit in May, alleging libel. His lawsuit took 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.”
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.