Richard Simmons’ publicist is speaking out in defense of the reclusive weight-loss guru amid the launch of a popular podcast that seeks to find out why Simmons has been missing from the public eye.

“Missing Richard Simmons” is hosted by Dan Taberski, a filmmaker who describes himself as a friend of Simmons. On a recent episode, Simmons’ former masseuse and friend Mauro Oliveira said Simmons is being controlled by his housekeeper.

Simmons publicist Tom Estey denied Oliveira’s claims in an interview with People magazine. Estey tells People that Simmons has made a choice “to live a more private life.” He says when Simmons “decides that he wants to come back, that’s when he’ll come back.”

Estey says he’s not cooperating with Taberski’s podcast.

While the 68-year-old Simmons — born Milton Teagle Simmons in New Orleans, Louisiana — is probably best known for his fitness videos, including the popular Sweatin’ to the Oldies series, and Emmy Award-winning health- focused talk show The Richard Simmons Show, he also made numerous other TV appearances including a stint as himself on the soap opera General Hospital.

Simmons has not made any major public appearances since 2014, when he abruptly ceased teaching fitness classes — and concern and conjecture surrounding that has grown over time. About a year ago, Simmons granted an audio interview to the Today Show, during which he bluntly denied the rumors. “No one is holding me in my house as a hostage,” he said.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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