Judge throws out Richard Simmons lawsuit over tabloid falsely ‘outing’ him as trans
A court has made a final ruling in the Richard Simmons lawsuit against the National Enquirer.
Richard Simmons is a flamboyant fitness guru and former TV personality in the US, who abruptly ceased all public appearances in 2014.
The National Inquirer, which has a notorious history of perpetuating hoaxes about celebrities, later published a number of front-page splashes claiming Simmons was transgender.
The TV personality later launched libel action, describing the articles as “cruel and malicious”.
However, the case ended in a defeat for Simmons this week, as a judge threw out his case.
Judge Gregory Keosian controversially ruled that no case could be heard for mis-identifying someone as transgender, gay, bisexual or lesbian, because they are not negative characteristics.
The judge ruled: “While, as a practical matter, the characteristic may be held in contempt by a portion of the population, the court will not validate those prejudices by legally recognising them.”
The articles in question were published between June 2016 and March 2017, and based their claims on Simmons’ withdrawal from public life.
Headlines included “shocking sex surgery”, and suggesting that he was undergoing hormone replacement therapy and that he had gotten breast implants.
The National Enquirer claimed he was “the latest Hollywood star to secretly undergo a sex change”, adding that he has “opted for a breast implant surgery, hormone therapy, and a host of other invasive changes to create the transformation.”
Simmons’ lawyer argued that he had 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.”
Howard Stern and Tom Cruise are among the high-profile celebrities who have successfully won libel suits for being called gay in various publications. Stern settled privately, and Cruise was awarded 10 million by a court in Los Angeles in 2003.
After both lawsuits, a court ruled it “no longer slander” to be described as “L,” “G,” or “B”. Judge Keosian’s ruling has now put the “T” in the same camp, setting a precedent for other courts to do the same.
Judge Keosian agreed with The Enquirer’s defense lawyer’s statement: “There is nothing inherently bad about being transgender.”
He then dismissed Simmons’ case from the court.
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Simmons’ lawyer commented that The Enquirer “cannot at once cynically and deliberately publish falsehoods about Simmons that it touted to the world as ‘shocking’ and ‘bizarre,’ intentionally pandering to prejudice, and then righteously pretend that such prejudice does not exist.”
The National Enquirer has previously published claims that Caitlyn Jenner plans to ‘de-transition’ and live as a man, and false claims that Neil Patrick Harris has ‘broken up’ with his partner… weeks before they tied the knot.
It has also repeatedly prophesied the death of Cher – claiming for several years that the singer’s death is imminent.
The outlet has published numerous front-pages fixated on the gay icon’s health, claiming in 2014 that she had just 3 months to live.
In 2015, it claimed Cher was celebrating her “last Christmas”. She has since returned to the stage for a Las Vegas residency.