Richard Simmons is not transgender, but must pay a tabloid $130K for saying he is

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Richard Simmons will soon be missing $130,000.

A judgment has been made in the reclusive fitness fanatic’s libel and invasion of privacy
lawsuit against American Media, which owns the tabloid National Enquirer and the Radar Online website. The Sweatin’ to the Oldies star — who sued over the outlets calling him “transgender” and claiming that he had “undergone shocking sex surgery to change from a man to a woman,” which he denied — must pay $128,625, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian stated in his ruling on Friday.

Richard Simmons attends “Swim for Relief” Benefiting Hurricane Sandy Recovery at Herald Square in N.Y.C. on Oct. 9, 2013. (Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

Surprisingly, Simmons is actually saving money. Attorneys for AMI initially sought $220,000 after Keosian dismissed Simmons’s case in August. The monetary breakdown is $110,250 for the general costs of preparing the dismissal motion and the rest is to compensate the defendants for attorneys’ fees.

Of course, the bigger part of all this is: Why did Simmons have to pay anything when he vehemently denied the claims that he was transitioning and called the reports “lies”? Well, when the judge dismissed lawsuit, which was filed in May 2017, he said that being misidentified as transgender “does not expose “any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.’” Therefore, it did not fall into the category of defamation.

While the lawsuit was a loss for Simmons, it was viewed as a win for transgender rights. The ruling appeared to be the first to address the question of whether being labeled “transgender” is harmful enough to a person’s reputation to be libelous. Keosian wrote that while being trans “may be held in contempt by a portion of the population, the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognizing them.”

As for where the erroneous claims came from for the “Richard Simmons: He’s Now a Woman!” story,  court papers stated that it was phony information provided by Simmons’s former assistant, Mauro Oliveira, who allegedly tried to blackmail the fitness guru for years and fed the stories about the alleged transition to the outlets.

The tabloid story, which ran in 2016, capitalized on the fact that Simmons had all but disappeared from the spotlight, a topic popularized in the podcast Missing Richard Simmons. However, a rep for Simmons had said that after he had knee surgery a few years ago, Simmons stepped back from the spotlight, but is “still on Twitter and Facebook and works behind the scenes continuing to inspire and motivate people to lose weight. When he decides to come back, he will come back.”

Simmons’s legal team is appealing the dismissal motion.

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