The National Enquirer claims Richard Simmons can’t sue it for claiming he’s transitioning because there’s no harm in saying someone is transgender. But the fitness guru counters that transphobia is alive and well in America—and he cites Donald Trump’s ban on trans service members as a key example.
In court papers, the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, claimed Simmons’ reputation as someone willing to bend gender norms was cemented long before its reported he had breast augmentation and was living as a woman named Fiona.
American Media further alleged the defamation suit had no merit because being labeled transgender, even if you’re not, wouldn’t damage anyone’s deputation. Not so, wrote Simmons’ lawyer, Neville Johnson, in a brief filed Thursday.
“It is unclear why, if society (and AMI purportedly with it) so embraces the transgender community, that AMI would characterize its Articles as ’exposing’ Mr. Simmons or use the word ’bizarre’ to characterize his alleged new life as a trans woman,” it read in part. “Surely, if AMI’s readers rejected prejudice against trans people, such phrasing would not help sell magazines or promote internet clicks.”
Johnson claims AMI “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.”
“AMI erroneously asserts that because many progressive people would not discriminate against trans individuals (even if some others nonetheless would), even knowingly false assertions, cast in the most salacious terms, cannot be defamatory,” writes Johnson. “But this claim by AMI that ’the views of the enlightened’ govern the defamation analysis have long been rejected in American jurisprudence.”
Pointing out that nearly half of transgender Americans report suffering harassment, discrimination and even violence, Johnson insisted our culture is “rife” with anti-trans bias. “These controversies include the intense battle over trangender rights in North Carolina and the recent announcement of President Donald Trump that ’transgender individuals’ will not be allowed to serivce int he United State military.”
Court watchers say AMI believed Simmons would never file suit because it would look like he had a problem with transgender people.