Where in the world is Richard Simmons? Well, he better hope he's got a gig lined up, because it looks like he owes $220,000 after a failed attempt to sue for defamation.
In May 2017, The National Enquirer started speculating as to why Richard Simmons had seemingly disappeared for 3 years. Rumors swirled that he was being held hostage, but Simmons himself shot that down.
"No one is holding me in my house as a hostage; I do what I want to do as I've always done. So people should just believe what I have to say, because, like, I'm Richard Simmons," Simmons told the Today Show by phone.
However, The National Enquirer kept speculating, and ultimately landed on one conclusion: Richard Simmons was transitioning into a woman.
The story claimed Simmons had changed his name to Fiona, had a boob job, and was "considering having a vagina built by doctors." Simmons called these stories "cruel and malicious." He believes the Enquirer knew their story was false, but believed Simmons wouldn't sue because he would appear unsympathetic to people who are, in fact, transitioning. Simmons called this a "miscalculation" on their end.
However, once the case hit court, it was Simmons who had done some miscalculating of his own.
Simmons lawyers argued that the story was made up solely to humiliate and defame their client.
“The object of the National Enquirer was to do everything they could to humiliate this person,” said attorney Neville Johnson. “They made it up entirely out of whole cloth. I submit that when you make something up intentionally… and put it on the cover, there’s an inference you can make that somebody’s reputation is going to be harmed.”
The judge seemed to have a different take, however. Judge Gregory Keosian ruled that being misidentified as transgender does not automatically expose someone to "hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy.” Because of this, it's not considered 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.
As for The National Enquirer, they responded to the judge's ruling, saying "We stand by our reporting about Mr. Simmons, and intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit and win public vindication of our reports."
But things kept getting worse for Simmons. The judge ruled he was responsible for covering attorney costs and any other court fees accumulated by the Enquirer. The magazine, and their parent company American Media, just filed documents detailing the total costs for the lawsuit, and it's to the tune of $221,888. According to TMZ, the highest bill for one lawyer was just under $50k for services rendered over 95 hours. The lowest tab was $600 to a paralegal who put in 2 hours of work.
Simmons plans to appeal the judge's ruling, but the question is...can he afford it?
Do you think the judge made the right decision in this case?