The National Enquirer is hitting back after Richard Simmons filed a lawsuit claiming the tabloid published false stories about him.
A spokesperson at American Media Inc., the company that owns the National Enquirer and Radar, told People that they stand by their story: "We stand by our reporting about him, all of which was based on solid sourcing and material evidence. Should he choose to proceed with his lawsuit, we will defend it vigorously, and we look forward to the public vindication of our reports."
The fitness guru is suing the gossip magazine, along with its affiliate, Radar Online, for claiming that he was transitioning. Though acquaintance Mauro Oliveira is not a defendant in the lawsuit, Simmons is slamming his former associate and saying that Oliveira stalked and blackmailed him.
Simmons is suing the companies for libel and invasion of privacy. Among other stroies, the National Enquirer published a splashy cover of Simmons in a wig and women's clothes that said, "Richard Simmons: He's now a woman!" and claimed that Simmons got a "secret boob job and castration surgery."
Simmons emphasized in his lawsuit that he remains a supporter of trans individuals and the LGBTQ community but pointed out, "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 added that the stories put him in a difficult position because it might look like Simmons saw being trans as shameful if he denied the allegations. It also pointed out that the publications took advantage of the fact that Simmons has worn women's clothes before as part of his "burlesque" persona.
"This case is about a particularly egregious and hurtful campaign of defamations and privacy invasions, falsely asserting that Mr. Simmons is transitioning from a male to a female, including 'shocking sex surgery,' breast implants, hormone treatments and consultations on medical castration," Simmons stated in his lawsuit.
Simmons said that the National Enquirer's stories are based on false information from Oliveira, who reportedly sold stories to the publication and Radar.
The lawsuit alleged that "while pitching around these ideas, Mr. Oliveira was also blackmailing Mr. Simmons, sending him emails and threatening to destroy his reputation with damaging press coverage unless Mr. Simmons paid Mr. Oliveira to stop." Oliveira denied the allegations to People and said that Simmons owed him backpay and compensation for severance and health issues.