16:59, May 08 188 0 theguardian.com

2017-05-08 16:59:03

 

Richard Simmons sues National Enquirer over gender reassignment claims

Richard Simmons is suing the National Enquirer, Radar Online and American Media Inc over a story that alleged he underwent gender reassignment surgery.

The entertainer, who was recently the subject of hit podcast Missing Richard Simmons, has filed a libel complaint based on a series of articles published between June 2016 and March 2017.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, who obtained the documents, the suit reads: “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 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 stories claimed that Simmons was transitioning to a woman and his lawsuit will be the first defamation case over reports of gender reassignment. The suit details that the alleged source was Mauro Oliviera, who is featured heavily in Missing Richard Simmons.

“Starting from around May 2015, Mauro Oliveira, an individual who has blackmailed, extorted and stalked Mr Simmons for several years with the intention of destroying the career and reputation of Mr Simmons, contacted several press outlets, including the National Enquirer and Radar, and offered information on Mr Simmons’ disappearance in exchange for a fee,” the suit reads.

The complaint details that Oliviera contacted Simmons after the story was published to allegedly demand money and in exchange he would recant his story on record.

Simmons is asking for an unspecified compensatory amount, as well as a public apology and retraction.

The 68-year-old, who gained fame in the 1980s with his many TV appearances and fitness videos, was the subject of Missing Richard Simmons, a podcast aimed at uncovering why he had withdrawn from the public eye. He recently went on record, via Facebook, to claim that he has just been “under the weather”.