Richard Simmons sues National Enquirer over stories claiming he is changing gender

Simmons' lawyer spoke out in an interview with "Good Morning America."

ByABC News
May 9, 2017, 7:28 AM

— -- Fitness guru Richard Simmons has filed a lawsuit against the National Enquirer, Radar Online and the media outlets' owner, American Media, over stories claiming that Simmons is transitioning from a male to a female, according to court documents.

The complaint filed Monday asserts that Simmons is the victim of a "particularly egregious and hurtful campaign of defamations and privacy invasions, falsely asserting that Mr. Simmons is transitioning from a male to a female."

The legal move comes as the fitness icon has recently reconnected with fans, after vanishing from the public eye over the past few years. Simmons' retreat from the spotlight sparked the rise of the wildly popular podcast, "Missing Richard Simmons," which explores unsubstantiated conspiracy theories surrounding his whereabouts.

Simmons' lawsuit alleges four counts of libel and one count of invasion of privacy and seeks damages and compensation as well as an apology and retraction of the stories.

Neville Johnson, one of Simmons' attorneys, told ABC News that his client decided to take action because "it reached a point where he said, 'I'm not going to take it anymore.'"

"He is going to have to go and see an independent medical doctor and show that he hasn’t been castrated, and that’s how offensive it is," Johnson said.

Simmons' manager, Michael Catalano, characterized the tabloids' reporting as "reckless and damaging."

"Richard and I are very pleased that his side of the story could be voiced today through the filing of the lawsuit against National Enquirer, Inc., Radaronline, LLC American Media, Inc.," Catalano said in a statement to ABC News. "We truly feel the complaint speaks for itself. In typical fashion the Enquirer and Radar are denying all responsibility for their reckless and damaging reporting. We look forward to getting the facts of the case before the public."

The National Enquirer, Radar Online, and American Media said in a statement that they stand by their reporting.

"For decades, Richard Simmons used his outrageous behavior to build his brand and his bank account," the statement said. "For Mr. Simmons to claim that his privacy has been invaded is hypocritical when his entire livelihood is based upon the public consumption of his image."

"This is a legitimate news story that demands coverage," the news group added, saying that the story "was based on credible sources" and the photos were "real--and speak for themselves."

Johnson told ABC News that Simmons "has nothing to hide."

"That’s the simple fact of it, he simply wanted to be a private individual, and we have to respect the right of privacy of people, including celebrities," Johnson said. "And in this particular situation, for a person who has given so much love and enjoyment and hope to the world, allow him to live in peace as he wants to."