Richard Simmons files lawsuit against tabloids

Simmons' attorney, Neville Johnson, tells ABC News exclusively that Simmons "has nothing to hide" and has to "come back into the public life" to fight tabloid coverage.
4:12 | 05/09/17

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Transcript for Richard Simmons files lawsuit against tabloids
We'll move on to that major lawsuit from Richard Simmons. He's taking on the tabloids filing a 70-page suit against "The national enquirer" for stories that he had gender reassignment surgery. He calls them cruel and hurtful and Nick watt is bringing us an exclusive interview with his attorney. Good morning, Nick. Reporter: Good morning. You know, up until now Richard Simmons has just calmly rebuffed that frenzied speculation about what he's been up but no more. As you say suing "The national enquirer" and radar online for falsely reporting he's undergoing gender reassignment and living as a woman named Fiona. Take it out. Two, three. Reporter: One of the most famous faces in America disappeared from public life three years ago fodder for wild theories, massive media coverage and the chart topping podcast. This morning, he's fighting back. He's going to have to come back into public life to fight this. There's a point where a human being says, I'm not going to allow this to happen anymore. Reporter: In 2016 "The national enquirer" ran this cover story and radar online ran five pieces and run follow-up stories and calling the coverage an egregious and hurtful campaign of defamation and privacy invasion, falsely asserting that Mr. Simmons is transitioning from a male to a female including shocking sex surgery. He's going to have to go and see an independent medical doctor and appear at a trial in front of strangers and the world. He's prepared to do that. Reporter: Last night Simmons' manager telling us Richard and I are very pleased that his side of the story could be voiced through the filing. We look forward to getting the facts of the case before the public. Keep that body going. Reporter: "Sweatin' to the oldies" saying they knew the source was unreliable and was also blackmailing Simmons. I think they felt in this particular case that Mr. Simmons didn't have the emotional and psychological wherewithal to stand up for himself. Richard has nothing to hide. He simply wanted to be a private individual and we have to respect the right of privacy. Reporter: "The enquirer" telling us our story was based on credible sources who were in Mr. Simmons' inner circle. We stand by our reporting about Mr. Simmons and intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit and win public vindication for our reports." Damages and apology, a retraction? That all sounds excellent. Substantial damages and a really big apology. Reporter: So, what is actually going on with Simmons? Well, his lawyers say he's taking time out of the spotlight. LAPD officers have visited twice, most recently in March and then say there is no cause for concern. He's 68 years old. He's just livg the quiet life, George, after 40 years in the spotlight. Okay, Nick, interesting stuff. Thanks very much. Let's talk more with Dan Abrams and we saw the lawyer right there, big lawsuit here. But it's not easy for a public figure like Simmons to win a case like this. It never is. And the first question is going to be, is it false? It's hard to believe that Richard Simmons would be suing if he'd actually had the surgery so let's assume for a mute for argument sake that at least that part of the story may end up not being accurate. What they will say is even if that's the case we had every reason to believe it was true and that's the legal standard. They weren't being reckless. When it comes to libel, you have to demonstrate a media entity knew or should have known it was false. But the really interesting legal question here is, is it defamatory to say that someone is getting this kind of surgery, that someone is changing their gender? Is it a negative thing? Is it worthy of damages? And that's a novel legal question that could be resolved in this case. And finally if it goes to a jury he'd have to testify? Absolutely. It's a civil case. It's not like a criminal case where you have to say I'll invoke my right not to testify. In a civil case he's the plaintiff. He has to testify. Privacy issues there, as well, Dan Abrams, thanks very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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