The world can’t get enough of openly speculating about Richard Simmons’s well-being, and he’s getting sick of it. People reports that Simmons plans on suing Radar Online, the National Enquirer, and both rags’ parent company, American Media Inc., for “a hurtful campaign of defamations and privacy invasions” in their coverage of him. Says People:
The suit will reportedly be filed Monday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages. Neither Simmons, 68, nor his manager Michael Catalano were available for comment.
Dylan Howard – who is the chief content officer for American Media, the editor in chief of the National Enquirer and editorial director for RadarOnline – did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
It’s not yet clear which stories are considered defamatory or invasive. However, last year, National Enquirer ran a story that Radar syndicated claiming he had undergone gender-reassignment surgery (via Facebook, Simmons denied the claim). Both publications have extensively covered Simmons’ now-legendary reclusiveness.
As expected, Simmons’s lawsuit is over the transitioning story. The Hollywood Reporter got its hands on a copy of the suit, and has run excerpts from it such as this:
National Enquirer and Radar Online have miscalculated. 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.
THR also analyzes the complexity of the claim:
The lawsuit raises provocative issues. Past courts have grappled with the question of whether being called gay is actually a stain on one’s reputation. Other courts have dealt with public accusations of cosmetic surgery in the reputational context. Results have been mixed. For instance, Tom Cruise once won a default judgment against a porn actor who claimed an affair, while a New York appeals court in 2012 ruled that defamation suits premised on one’s sexuality are “based on the flawed premise that it is shameful and disgraceful to be described as lesbian, gay or bisexual.”
Here, Simmons is bringing the first-ever defamation lawsuit over published reports of a sex change and framing it as a stand for dignity and the right to have a gender identity.