Richard Simmons speaks out on his absence

Updated 3:05 PM EDT, Mon March 14, 2016
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Story highlights

NEW: Simmons tells "Today" show Monday that it was his decision to withdraw from public life

New York Daily News story contained claims that Simmons is being "controlled;" fans tweet their concerns

Simmons says he will be back

(CNN) —  

Richard Simmons wants the world to know he is fine and not in danger.

“No one is holding me in my house as a hostage,” Simmons told the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie during a phone interview which aired Monday morning. “You know I do what I want to do as I’ve always done, so people should sort of just believe what I have to say because, like, I’m Richard Simmons!”

The fitness guru has come forward amid speculation that he was in forced seclusion.

It all began with the recent publication of a New York Daily News story in which some of Simmons’ friends said they have not seen him in the past two years. Simmons’ former masseur and assistant, Mauro Oliveira, told the publication he feared the “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” mogul was being “controlled” by those closest to him.

“I feel that Richard is now being controlled by the very people that he controlled his whole life,” he says. “Controlled in the sense that they are taking advantage of his weak mental state. Controlled in the sense that they are controlling his mail, controlling his everything. His brother, the manager and Teresa (Reveles, Simmons’ live-in housekeeper). Those three people.”

But “Entertainment Tonight” reported that its executive producer, Brad Bessey, recently spoke with Simmons by phone.

“No one should be worried about me,” Simmons said. “The people that surround me are wonderful people who take great care of me.”

Late Sunday, a posting on Simmons’ official Facebook account said, “I can’t believe I was trending on Facebook! After some questions about my health and whereabouts, I’ll be calling in to Today Show tomorrow morning. If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, I hope you’ll tune in!”

Simmons said during his phone interview with Guthrie that it was his decision to go into seclusion because “I just sort of wanted to be a little bit of a loner for a little while.”

“You know, I had hurt my knee, and I had some problems with it, and then the other knee started giving me trouble because I’ve taught like thousands and thousands of classes, and you know right now I just want to sort of take care of me,” Simmons told Guthrie.

Speculation that Reveles is manipulating him is “just very silly,” Simmons said.

“Teresa Reveles has been with me for 30 years,” he said. “It’s almost like we’re a married couple.”

Earlier, the star’s representative, Tom Estey, told People his client is safe and simply out of the limelight.

“As I have stated in the past, these claims are untrue and preposterous,” Estey said. “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.”

The Internet loves a good mystery, and theories – and concerns for the beloved Simmons – have abounded.

Simmons had a message for anyone who had been concerned.

“For all the people that were worrying about me, I want to tell them that I love them with my whole heart and soul and that not to worry, Richard’s fine,” he said. “You haven’t seen the last of me. I’ll come back, and I’ll come back strong.”