Laney Griner, the mother of the photogenic boy in the popular meme “Success Kid” is planning to sue a congressman who has a record of making racist and insensitive comments for using her son’s picture without her permission.
Griner’s attorney sent a cease and desist letter to Rep. Steve King on Monday ordering the Iowa Republican to stop using a meme featuring her son Sam in a fundraising ad on Facebook.
It says that using the image for fundraising without her consent not only violates the Griners’ copyright but also infringes on Sam’s privacy, image and personality rights.
The letter states:
“From its grassroots beginnings, ‘Success Kid’ became a viral sensation beloved by millions of Americans, largely due to its good-natured, friendly message. Your use has harmed and continues to harm that well-earned goodwill,”
The letter also requests King to post an apology on his Facebook page clarifying that the Griner family did not approve the use of the image, return the amount of money raised by the ad, and formally inform donors that the ad was rejected.
According to reports from CNN on Tuesday, Griner’s attorney Stephen D. Rothschild said King and his office had not replied to the letter yet but the ad has been taken down.
Laney Griner told CNN:
“It really made me angry seeing my son mixed in with that, because his [King’s] posts are just so angry and just intended to incite.”
She just found out about the ad a week ago on Twitter when Media Matters reporter Eric Hananoki posted a screenshot of King’s Facebook post.
It highlights “Success Kid” baby Sam with the fistful of sand and triumphant expression on his face that’s been used all over social media for more than ten years, but the photo has been edited to make it look like he’s standing at the facade of the US Capitol building.
The words “FUND OUR MEMES!!!” are edited on the picture in bold letters and urges people to click the link to a fundraising site and throw them a few dollars to make sure the memes keep flowing and the Lefties stay triggered.
Griner said she was upset when she saw the ad and immediately took it to Twitter saying:
“Just so it’s clear — I have/would never give permission for use of my son’s photo to promote any agenda of this vile man or that disgusting party.”
She identifies herself as very liberal and exclaimed that King is against everything she stands for.
“But it’s not even just about that. It’s more just about being negative.”
“The thought of anyone thinking we gave permission or, you know, associating us with him is really kind of sickening.”
In 2007, Griner took this photo of her son Sam on a beach in Jacksonville, Florid. Success kid was only 11 months old then. She says she took the photo right before Sam tried to jam a handful of sand into his mouth. She and her husband posted this picture online and they were surprised to watch his son’s viral fame.
“He has no memory of it, the picture being taken, of course, and as far as he knows, he’s been a meme forever.”
Sam’s 13 now and even though he’s gotten a little embarrassed by the attention the “Success Kid” meme gets, his fame also had positive implications, especially when its fans gave more than $100,000 in 2015 to help Sam’s dad get a successful kidney transplant.