Richard Simmons is not in any danger, his representative has insisted, after reports emerged that he was being held hostage in his home.
The former fitness guru has sparked concern over recent years due to his decision to retreat from the spotlight. Rumours then swirled that Simmons was being kept from friends and family by his longtime live-in housekeeper Teresa Reveles, prompting The New York Daily News newspaper to launch an investigation into the allegations.
In an article published by the newspaper last Saturday (05Mar16), Simmons' former assistant Mauro Oliveira paid a visit to the star's home, and was told that they could no longer see each other.
Several other friends reportedly told the publication that they hadn't heard from Simmons since 2013 and were "very concerned".
Now the star's representative Tom Estey has come forward to set the record straight, insisting the rumours in the article are untrue and that Simmons is simply taking a break from the public eye.
"As I have stated in the past, these claims are untrue and preposterous," Estey told People.com on Saturday (12Mar16). "Richard, after 40 years of being in the spotlight, is now simply taking a break from the public eye and working behind the scenes to continue to help those millions of people worldwide in need of his assistance and on several projects to be announced soon."
This isn't the first time that Simmons has had to defend his retreat from the spotlight. In 2014, he wasn't seen in public for almost a year, but attributed his absence to a knee injury.
"I am so touched by the outpouring of love and concern I have received today," he wrote on his Facebook page at the time. "I have had a tough time dealing with this injury, as it is keeping me from doing what I truly love to do and that is to teach classes around the world."