City News Service

Richard Simmons Sex Change Libel Suit Dismissed

The lawsuit alleges that the National Enquirer and Radar online were "reckless" in reporting Simmons was undergoing a sex change

A judge dismissed on free-speech grounds a libel/invasion of privacy lawsuit that Richard Simmons brought against the National Enquirer, Radar Online and their publisher over stories claiming the fitness guru was undergoing a sex change, court papers obtained Tuesday show.

"This court finds that because courts have long held that a misidentification of certain immutable characteristics do not naturally tend to injure one's reputation, even if there is a sizeable portion of the population who hold prejudices against those characteristics, misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation absent special damages," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian wrote in a ruling that he finalized Friday.

The judge had heard arguments last Wednesday, then had taken the case under submission.

The lawsuit filed May 8 contends the series of articles falsely suggested that Simmons was transitioning from male to female, and that the stories were based on phony information provided by a former assistant.

"They made it up entirely out of whole cloth," argued Neville Johnson, one of Simmons' lawyers.

The Enquirer stated on its website that its reporting was based on "credible sources." The publication vowed to "vigorously" defend against the lawsuit and to "aggressively pursue our ongoing investigation into his life and who is really behind this bizarre and meritless lawsuit."

The lawsuit alleges that Simmons was being "blackmailed, extorted and stalked" for several years by the ex-assistant, who allegedly peddled false and libelous information to the Enquirer and Radar Online, which are both owned by American Media.

The assistant -- who is not named as a defendant -- told the Enquirer that Simmons stopped appearing in public in 2014 because he was undergoing a sex change, according to the suit. The lawsuit alleges that the Enquirer and Radar "knew and acted in reckless disregard" by relying on a tipster "who was not a credible or reliable source."

Simmons, 69, was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center earlier this year for what was reported to be a gastrointestinal problem. Simmons, who has rarely been seen in public in recent years, posted a message on his Facebook page after he returned home, thanking the hospital staff and the police who escorted him home.

In his message, he wrote that he was not "missing," but was just "a little under the weather."

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