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17 Feb 2024

Ousted former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) sued Jimmy Kimmel, ABC and Disney this week, accusing the late-night host of fraud and copyright infringement after Kimmel’s team tricked Santos into making personalized videos on the app Cameo, where the ex-lawmaker claims he’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Election 2024 Trump

Former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., arrives before Republican presidential candidate former President ... [+] Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party in Nashua, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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In December, Kimmel launched a segment on his show called “Will Santos say it?” where he aired videos Santos made on Cameo in response to requests Kimmel had made using what the lawsuit—filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday—described as “fake user profiles” and “phony names and narratives.”

In the videos, Santos congratulates a non-existent fan for winning a meat-eating contest and congratulates another non-existent fan for cloning her dog, among other things, all based on requests Kimmel made through Cameo, which allows fans to pay for personalized messages from an array of celebrities and public figures.

But Santos alleges in his lawsuit Kimmel’s use of the videos infringed on Santos’ copyright, with Santos’ lawyers arguing Cameo’s terms of service do not permit users to broadcast videos on national television.

Santos also accuses Kimmel of fraud, claiming Kimmel misrepresented himself to obtain the videos “for the sole purpose of capitalizing on and ridiculing (Santos’) gregarious personality.”

Santos is seeking an injunction on the use of future videos, $150,000 in statutory damages related to each alleged copyright infringement, amounting to $750,000 over five videos, plus other unspecified actual and punitive damages.

Forbes has contacted Santos’ lawyers, ABC and Disney for comment.

Kimmel had previously laughed off the possibility of a lawsuit. In December, he ran the segment a second time and said Santos had demanded $20,000 in compensation after the first round of videos. He told his audience: “Could you imagine if I get sued by George Santos for fraud? I mean, how good would that be? It would be like a dream come true.”

Santos became only the sixth person in history to be expelled from Congress in December following months of controversy around allegations he lied about significant elements of his personal life, federal criminal charges related to fraud and a House ethics report that alleged Santos “blatantly stole from his campaign.” Santos has consistently denied any wrongdoing. After leaving Congress, he began posting videos on Cameo, where he says he’s made more money than he did in Congress, where he earned a $174,000-a-year salary.

1,200. That’s how many videos Santos told CNN earlier this month he’d made on Cameo. The Cameo website says each personal video costs $350.

Democrat Tom Suozzi successfully flipped Santos’ vacant seat this week, beating Republican Mazi Pilip in a snowy special election that will narrow the GOP’s already razor-thin House majority.