(AP) Richard Simmons filed a libel and invasion of privacy lawsuit Monday against the National Enquirer and its parent company over stories that said he is now living as a transgender woman.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as an apology and retraction for stories published in June 2016 and March 2017 in the Enquirer and its website, RadarOnline.
The lawsuit also names their parent company, American Media, Inc., and said the stories' main source was a man who has tried to blackmail the former fitness guru for years, and included a 2013 photo of Simmons dressed in drag.
Simmons' lawsuit' said he often dressed as a woman as part of "his well-known and longstanding burlesque-style entertainment persona."
The lawsuit listed what is said were 16 factual errors in the first story, including that Simmons had transitioned to become a woman and had undergone gender reassignment treatments.
Simmon retreated from public life in 2014, sparking rampant speculation about his health and wellbeing and a popular podcast named "Missing Richard Simmons."
His manager has said Simmons decided to step back from the spotlight, and his previous years of high-profile appearances do not mean he is required to remain in the public eye. Simmons' manager and attorney did not immediately respond to phone and email messages Monday.
"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," the National Enquirer wrote in a statement defending its reporting after the lawsuit was filed. "At the end of the day, how Mr. Simmons lives his life is news and of interest to our readers."
The case said Simmons is entitled to recover damages for his emotional distress caused by the story. It also said his retreat from public life is not a justification for the publication of false stories about him.
"The National Enquirer and Radar used Mr. Simmons' respite from the glare of public life to treat his persona as a defamation free-fire zone, acting as if they had a license to publish any story they wanted about Simmons," the lawsuit said.