On Monday, Richard Simmons filed a bombshell lawsuit against the National Enquirer and its publisher for four counts of libel and one count of invasion of privacy for publishing allegedly untrue stories about why the fitness guru has retreated from the spotlight, including stories about him transitioning from male to female.
“He didn’t want to take it anymore. He’s reached his limit of tolerance,” Simmons’ lawyer Neville L. Johnson, a founding partner of Beverly Hills law firm Johnson & Johnson, LLP, tells PEOPLE of why he chose to file the complaint. “He has denied [the stories] consistently, and they are relentless. They won’t give up, so somebody has to put a stop to it. I think he reached a point where he just said, ‘This is unacceptable.’ ”
Simmons, 68, decided to fight back “because everybody’s entitled to have respect and to be dignified about whatever their sexual interest or proclivity is,” says Johnson. “Here they’re writing about intimate details of this individual that are not true, and it really was bothersome to him. It’s unfair to him, and we say [in the complaint] he always supports the LGBTQ community, but that doesn’t mean they get to write and say anything they want about him.”
A spokesperson at American Media, Inc., prior to seeing the lawsuit, told PEOPLE that they maintain the accuracy of their reporting.
“While we have not seen Mr. Simmons’ complaint, we stand by our reporting about him, all of which was based on solid sourcing and material evidence. Should he choose to proceed with his lawsuit, we will defend it vigorously, and we look forward to the public vindication of our reports.”
In addition to being libelous, Johnson says the stories have also hurt Simmons emotionally, which is why he decided to file the invasion of privacy/false light charge. “This claim is going to the fact that [American Media, Inc.] really, really upset him and angered him and hurt him, and tried to humiliate him by doing this, so this is not for his reputational injury, this is for his personal/emotional injury.”
RELATED VIDEO: Richard Simmons Is Not Transitioning into a Woman, Says Rep: ‘He Deserves His Privacy’
While Simmons’ former associate Mauro Oliveira is named is the suit, with Simmons claiming he “blackmailed, extorted and stalked” him, Oliveira is not being named as a defendant in the suit. Johnson explains they did not file charges against Oliveira because “he’s got no money.”
Making the decision to file a lawsuit was not easy for Simmons, who retreated from the public eye in 2014 and has lived a very private life since then.
“I explained that if you think your privacy is invaded, just wait until the lawsuit happens, because now they’re really going to try and dig into his life,” says Johnson.
But Simmons ultimately was willing to take the risk.
“He has a determination to see this through to the end, and he’s doing this not only on behalf of himself, but to all who are unfairly targeted by the National Enquirer,” says Johnson. “The ideal [outcome of the lawsuit] is many millions of dollars, including punitive damages, and a massive apology and retraction by the National Enquirer.”