The National Enquirer reported that longtime fitness advocate Richard Simmons is transitioning to become a transgender woman. Now Simmons is suing the tabloid and the website Radar Online for libel and invasion of privacy.
Simmons wants an apology, retraction and damages, according to the Associated Press. iMediaEthics has written to Simmons’ manager to seek a copy of the lawsuit and list of articles in question.
Simmons claims that the source of the stories is a former assistant trying to blackmail him, according to NBC News, and that the stories are an invasion of privacy.
The lawsuit alleges, according to NBC News, that “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.”
American Media Inc. pointed iMediaEthics to a statement on the National Enquirer‘s website about the lawsuit.
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“For decades, Richard Simmons has used his outrageous behavior to build his brand and his bank account,” the statement reads in part. “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. To wit, Mr. Simmons signed a lucrative merchandising deal with a major branding company in April to handle licensing of his name and likeness.”
The National Enquirer argued its story was “a legitimate news story that demands coverage” since Simmons “disappeared from the public eye almost four years ago.” Further, the National Enquirer denied that it has a “stance or position” on gender identity and claimed it was “ironic” that Simmons found it defamatory to state he was transgender.
“Our story was based on credible sources who were in Mr. Simmons’ inner circle. The photos provided to The ENQUIRER are real — and speak for themselves,” the site said. “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.”
The statement also included several photos purporting to be Simmons dressed as a woman.