May 9, 2017

Richard Simmons sues The National Enquirer for defamation — but is saying that someone has had sex reassignment surgery defamatory?

The NYT explains the lawsuit and the National Enquirer's response:
“For decades, Richard Simmons has used his outrageous behavior to build his brand and his bank account,” the [National Enquirer's] statement said. “For Mr. Simmons to now claim that his privacy has been invaded is hypocritical when his entire livelihood is based upon the public consumption of his image.”

The statement, published alongside photos of Mr. Simmons in a wig, necklace and dress, described his life as a “legitimate news story that demands coverage.”

Mr. Simmons’s lawyers acknowledge in the lawsuit that he has dressed in costume as a woman as part of his persona, but they suggest that is a far cry from a sex change.
Since Simmons is a public figure, he will need to prove that the statement was published with a reckless disregard of the truth. But the National Review seems to be suggesting that the statement isn't even defamatory, that is, it doesn't harm his reputation. I notice the difficulty — if one wants to maintain pro-transgender values — of arguing that it hurts one's reputation to be known to have had what the NYT calls "a sex change."

The Times serves up a lawprof quote: "I think it would be an open question as to whether or not it’s capable of a defamatory meaning."


Owen said...

Simmons should own his identity. Out and proud. And very (lucratively) loud!

Fernandinande said...

This is that pudgy, frizzy-haired exercise guy, right?

tcrosse said...

Is suggesting that Trump fellates Putin (not that there's anything wrong with that) defamatory ?

Laslo Spatula said...

I discussed a Theory regarding Simmons in a previous Althouse post. I think it certainly sets the groundwork for his gender transition.

I hope this helps put Richard Simmons' seclusion in better context.

From that Theory:

"Richard Simmons shattered the glass ceiling that prevented Non-Celebrity Fat Women from having their own Magical Asexual Gay Guy."

Being a Gay Man that presented as Asexual and then was cast aside by better-looking non-threatening Celebrity Gay Men ('Queer Eye For the Straight Guy' as but one example), Simmons obviously suffered severe self-doubt leading to questions about his own worth and Identity.

Rejected as an Asexual Gay Man, Simmons really only had two options left to him: a SEXUAL Gay Man, or an Asexual Woman.

For Simmons, the second choice was a much easier path than the first.

As he was once a trend-setter in normalizing the Asexual Gay Man to Middle America he is now positioned to normalize Transgender Identity to those same people. They remember their previous fondness for Richard, and that helps them overlook any qualms they have of his new Identity: he was ALWAYS a bit 'off', but lovable.

Indeed, he is more effective normalizing Transgenderism to America than Caitlyn Jenner ever could: Caitlyn was once a Male Olympic Athlete, a Winner -- this places Him/Her outside a context that can readily be understood. But Simmons: he is still the Uncle who maybe hugs you too much but you love him, anyway.

I am Laslo.

holdfast said...

From the classic "Roadhouse":

Dalton: Don't worry about it; all you have to do is follow 3 simple rules: One, never underestimate your opponent..expect the unexpected; Two, take it outside, never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary; and nice.

Hank: [Incredulously] Come on!!

Dalton: If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker I want you to be nice

Hank: [With resignation] Ok

Dalton: Ask him to walk, be nice, if he won't walk, walk him, but be nice, If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you and you will both be nice...I want you to remember, that it's the job, it's nothing personal.

Steve: Being called a cocksucker isn't personal?

Dalton: No, it's two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response

Steve: What if somebody calls my Mama a whore?

Dalton: Is she?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann, the National Review is definitely not the National Enquirer. I think you should fix that.

holdfast said...

So apparently Republicans think that "being a woman is a pre-existing condition", WTF that means.

So for Jenner, is NOT being a woman a pre-existing condition?

Laslo Spatula said...

Somewhat serious legal question:

Being that the published stories were about Simmons having a sex change, could the Court uphold a Defense request for their doctors to examine Simmon's body for evidence of such a change -- breast implants, shaved Adam's apple, genitalia, etc?

What other method could be employed to prove they were right?

I am Laslo.

Rusty said...

Can't have it both ways , Richard. There's no flame on and flame off

Chuck said...

The tort of "invasion of privacy" would seem to be a better choice for a cause of action.

Here is the Restatement on the elements:

Mattman26 said...

Once you start defining deviancy downward, there's no telling where it stops!

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damikesc said...

I'm not sure how it wouldn't be. It's an indication of a mental disorder.

Static Ping said...

It is somewhat difficult to market yourself as a super wacky guy and then protest "but not that wacky!" At least not in this day and age.

I suppose he could argue that a good chunk of his audience would find it offensive that he had a sex change and would tune him out because of it. Given the current state of the courts I do not know if they could accept that argument. It is a perfectly valid argument but when a society goes insane, logical arguments go out the window in favor of whatever.

Mattman26 said...

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Jupiter C. said...

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raf said...

"But the National Review seems to be suggesting that the statement isn't even defamatory"

Seems out of character, no?

Joe said...

"but is saying that someone has had sex reassignment surgery defamatory?"

How is it not?

From Wikipedia: Defamation "is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, business, product, group, government, religion, or nation."

Bob R said...

I vote for leaving National Review as it stands. They have The Rock on the cover this month, so I think they will appreciate the genre reassignment surgery.

Tyrone Workman said...

So, accusing someone of being psycho who, with no evidence whatsoever to support it, is obsessed with the delusion that they were secretly born to one of the many other genders, when it isn't true, ISN'T defamatory? Who knew?

rhhardin said...

I thought he was gay.