Court: Story Alleging Richard Simmons Is Transgender Does Not Constitute Defamation

471645b3a24044cdbad83d43b1a20641_2ec4396aa92f4de2a3b47314751d5eb7_headerThere is an interesting ruling expected in L.A. Superior Court where Judge Gregory Keosian has handed down a tentative decision that would dismiss Richard Simmons’ defamation suit against the National Enquirer and Radar Online.  Those papers published a story that Simmons was transitioning to a woman.  Simmons denied the account and sued for defamation.  The decision is part of a trend away from such allegations as a per se form of defamation.

Simmons sued the publications in May.

The complaint alleges that the allegation was part of a blackmailing scheme that was later recanted by a Mauro Oliviera:

“Starting from around May 2015, Mauro Oliveira, an individual who has blackmailed, extorted and stalked Mr. Simmons for several years with the intention of destroying the career and reputation of Mr. Simmons, contacted several press outlets, including the National Enquirer and Radar, and offered information on Mr. Simmons’ disappearance in exchange for a fee. . . . All of these assertions were untrue, and were merely attempts by Mr. Oliveira to gain a profit in exchange for providing a false narrative about Mr. Simmons’ leave of absence. While pitching around these ideas, Mr. Oliveira was simultaneously blackmailing Mr. Simmons, sending him emails and threatening to destroy his reputation with damaging press coverage unless Mr. Simmons paid Mr. Oliveira to stop.”

The case reflects a changing in status of homosexual and transgender individuals in our society.  There was a time when homosexuality was treated as a per se category of slander under common law torts.  I have long discussed this issue in my torts class. Common law torts has always treated statements alleging moral turpitude and unchastity as per se categories of defamation. Accusing someone of being gay was long treated as a per se defamatory statement. It was not only viewed as alleging sexual impropriety and immorality but it was a crime in many states. One of the leading cases occurred in 1952 in a New York lawsuit. In Neiman-Marcus v. Lait, 13 FRD 311 (SDNY 1952), employees of that high-end store sued the author of a book titled “U.S.A. Confidential.” The book claimed that some of the models at the store and all of the saleswomen in the Dallas store were “call girls.” It further stated that most of the salesmen in the men’s department were “faggots.” The issue came down to the size of the group. With 382 saleswomen and models, the court found that the group was too large. However, with the 25 salesmen, the court found that an action could be maintained.

However, this is an example of how common law definitions change with society. Not only has the Supreme Court struck down laws criminalizing homosexual relations, but gay and lesbian citizens are now open and accepted in most of our society. Consider the statement of Keosian decision that being misidentified as transgender does not inherently expose someone to “hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy,” and therefore does not rise to the level of defamation.

Some courts may still challenge the view that a transgender allegation cannot constitute defamation, particularly in other states.  Nevertheless, the decision shows the considerable progress made by the transgender community in its incorporation into society.

What do you think?  Is an allegation of transitioning to the opposite sex a legitimate basis for defamation?

30 thoughts on “Court: Story Alleging Richard Simmons Is Transgender Does Not Constitute Defamation

  1. oh well i do not care of
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  2. Simmons should actually be the recipient of our prayers rather than this discussion. There are strong rumors that he is pretty much a prisoner in his own home, under the control of his housekeeper and some other guy, who won’t let any of his prior friends or allies near him, and are plying him with drugs.
    May not be true, but if it is, it’s a very sad thing.

    • They aren’t ‘rumors’. They are being promoted by a stalker who could not be more public about it, having done presentations on Youtube.

      The man retired, a perfectly normal thing for a man born in 1948 to have done in the last few years. His brother has said on the record that it’s all rubbish and the local police where he lives have done welfare checks on him and found nothing amiss.

  3. The legal profession has accorded the media a protection that is unwarranted from a legal and moral standpoint. The larger community should respond by court-stripping legislation.

    Simmons has always been sui generis. The man is a bachelor with a flamer sensibility, but there’s zero reliable evidence he’s ever been a part of any gay subculture. He appears to be a pure loner, personally connected only to his brother and household employees.

    He’s made such a clown of himself for so many decades, it would seem impossible to injure his reputation short of contending he’d enslaved illegal aliens or been caught with a dead girl or a live boy.

    • Richard Simmons has always seemed happy being Richard Simmons. I doubt that’s ever included physical acts of sodomy.

        • No, you can have homosexual feelings and not commit acts of sodomy. “Gay” is a subcultural affiliation, and there’s been zero indication over nearly 4 decades that Simmons has ever been immersed in that world. He might be a cruiser who never got caught. (George Michael did, Robert Reed didn’t). He’s always been an embarrassingly undignified man in a very particular way. He’s never demonstrably cared all that much what people inferred from that, however.

  4. If Simmons is a transgender, he would have a claim for violation of privacy. If he’s not a transgender, then what other bases to file a lawsuit than defamation?

    On the other hand, if the accusation causes Simmons loss of income, mental distress or psychological harm, he certainly has a valid claim.

    What we have here is yet another court ruling in favor of the Left, against conservative values, family, children, and apple pie.

  5. Jeez, I thought he’d gone away permanently. I think we need a “deal a meal” and “sweatin’ to the oldies” burn party. I’ve got the firepit.

  6. If you think being identified as transgender can’t cause you harm, you should speak to a few members of the Pink Pistols organization.

  7. So it is an offense in CA to misidentify someone’s preferred gender (e.g., referring to Caitlyn Jenner as or Chelsea Manning as “he”), but a newspaper can falsely report that someone is a tranny to boost sales and that’s okay? We are living in very strange times, my friends.

  8. I don’t think “society” openly accepts the LGBTXPN community. I think it pretty much doesn’t care what a bunch of freaks are up to, as long as they are left alone. If pressed, in public, people will pose as “accepting”, but in private, it is another matter. Not hatred or anything, but more “what a bunch of freaks” attitude.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    • XPN?

      eXperimental?
      Polysexual?
      Non/Asexual?

      I’d like to see you fit that into an Irish Poem, especially as the last word of a line.

      • I was thinking:

        x=whatever
        p=pedophile
        n=necrophiliac

        But, if you want an Irish Poem, who am I to refuse???

        Menage A BAH!!!
        An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

        There once was a thing we call “sex”
        Just “male” and “female” per the specs!
        Then, the weirdos got bold,
        And now genders untold
        Do naught but confuse and perplex!

        What was once a “Slot A” and “Tab B”,
        Was as simple as simple could be!
        Now, each nook and cranny,
        Ears, nose, mouth, and fanny. . .
        Are fair game for some devotee!

        Now, the folks who were normal are “cis”
        And considered vanilla, Hiss! Hiss!
        While freaks, dykes, and fairies
        Become “ordinaries”
        And let’s don’t even talk about [Golden Showers*]!

        Squeeky Fromm
        Girl Reporter

        * Yes, there is a word that rhymes with “hiss” and “cis” – but I am much too refined to use it in an Irish Poem.

          • I dare not link it, but there is a YouTube video out there, that shows interviews in a gay bar on the very subject.
            Prepare to be astonished and sickened.
            And just as atheist Richard Dawkins stated, “a little bit, is not a big deal”.
            #pedogate

          • Ah, the old trope, that equates homosexuality with pedophilia. Nice to know you are as much a homophobe as a racist.

            Molesting the underaged is correlated with male homosexuality and with lesbianism as well. I’ve seen data over the years that say that around 30% of molestations are male-on-male. Given that the homosexual and bisexual components of the male population are commonly estimated to be 2% and 2% of the total, respectively, that suggests a propensity in excess of 10x the remainder of the population. (Calculate the odds-ratio thus: (3/7) / (3/97) = 13.5. )

  9. I think he should be able ro sue. Presumably the allegation is an outright lie. Why shouldn’t he be able to aue for defamation? Even public figures should be able ro sue for outright lies told about them.

    • There isn’t actual harm in people thinking you had your d*ck cut-off so you could pretend to be a woman? Like Ms. Squeeky wrote, the reality is that people may feel pressured to say that it’s okay, but snicker behind the person’s back, because like it or not, disfiguring your body and taking synthetic hormones in an effort to switch genders is considered weird and pitiful by most people.

      • Because if you’re a nice person (like my mother) you feel sorry for trannies and think they have mental problems which they can’t help; and if you’re not a nice person (like me) you think they are freaks. Either way is not good. Simmons should definitely be able to sue for defamation. But he might want to switch lawyers. Suing in Los Angeles Superior Court wasn’t the brightest idea. Simmons should have rented an apt in Oklahoma for a few months, registered to vote and gotten an OK drivers’ license, and then filed suit there. It’s called “forum shopping,” and while the defendant’s would object, so long as he said he was legitimately living in OK on the day he filed, and intended to stay there indefinitely, he would have had a judge that probably wouldn’t think its o.k. to be falsely labeled a transvestite by a national tabloid. Or Salt Lake City, haha.

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