Former fitness guru Richard Simmons has been ordered to pay US$128,625 in lawyer fees to media outlets the National Enquirer and Radar Online, along with their publisher American Media, more than six months after his defamation lawsuit against them was dismissed.
Simmons, 69, sued the two outlets in May of last year after they published articles stating he is a transgender woman. (Simmons also clarified that he holds no personal ill feelings toward the transgender community.) In the lawsuit, Simmons accused both the Enquirer and Radar of publishing the stories with “calculated malice.”
For example, the headline on the June 2016 cover of the National Enquirer reads “Richard Simmons: He’s Now a Woman!” in all capital letters, accompanied by a picture of Simmons in a shoulder-length wig. The subheadings read “Real reason he disappeared for 924 days!” and “Exposed: Secret Boob Job & Castration Surgery.”
“This case is about a particularly egregious and hurtful campaign of defamations and privacy invasions, falsely asserting that Mr. Simmons is transitioning from a male to a female, including ‘shocking sex surgery,’ breast implants, hormone treatments and consultations on medical castrations,” Simmons’ lawsuit stated.
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The Enquirer stood by its reporting, citing “credible sources.”
Simmons alleged that a former assistant — who he said has “blackmailed, extorted and stalked” him in the past — was responsible for the articles and for feeding the publications phony information.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Keosian issued his ruling against Simmons on Friday.
The Enquirer and Radar had filed a motion in January seeking $220,000 for lawyer fees, which Simmons’ lawyers denounced as a “billing fiesta.”
In an August 2017 tentative ruling, Keosian ruled that being misidentified as a transgender person doesn’t necessarily expose that individual to “hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy.” As such, he determined, it doesn’t qualify as defamation.
“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 recognizing them,” Keosian ruled at the time.
Simmons plans to appeal Keosian’s judgement. As of this writing, no lawyer for any of the parties has spoken publicly on the ruling.