The Tangled Life Of The My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell

Infomercials are an undeniably strange phenomenon that exist in those hours when life seems to be wonderfully suspended for a while. There's nothing really going on, nothing to miss, nothing to be pestered about, and no meetings to attend. Back in the 2010s, the seemingly endless My Pillow infomercials seemed to be one of the more mundane of a series of mundane products, leaving an inevitably snacking, late-night-television-watching population wondering, "Why didn't I come up with that?" 

Fast forward a bit, and the story of those commercials has gotten really weird. In 2021, My Pillow founder and spokesman Mike Lindell was in a very public feud with Fox News. And that was strange: His company was the backbone of advertising in programs that other companies wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole, like Tucker Carlson's broadcasts. They eventually made amends, but according to Lindell, he continued to be persecuted for his beliefs.

"I had 12 TV stations, just the other day now, say that I couldn't be in the commercials," he told Right Side Broadcasting in 2022. "... I cannot personally be in them. So I want you to think about that, where they're coming to cancel out this country. You know, they want my voice stopped." What, exactly, was he saying? It's complicated and incredibly controversial.

Overcoming addiction is a difficult thing to do

One of the things that Mike Lindell has been very vocal about is the fact that for years, he had been struggling with addiction. In 2017, he told CNBC that starting in the 1980s, he'd had a series of business ideas and ventures. One included buying a bar, and he recalled, "Probably wasn't a real good idea because I was an addict at the time, a pretty hard-core cocaine addict."

Lindell said that the idea for the My Pillow business came to him in a 2004 dream, and he had been certain it was a bit of divine intervention. He and his son worked out the basic concept, and even though it did really well, he said that he still found himself struggling with another addiction: "And then I got into crack cocaine."

Getting out of the vicious cycle that is addiction isn't easy, and as the American Addiction Centers says, there's a lot of factors at play when it comes to crack cocaine. They cite things like extreme withdrawal symptoms that exist on both a psychological and a physical level, and they say that overcoming it alone is very, very rare. Because of the difficulty, they recommend medical supervision and enrollment in rehabilitation programs. But here's where Lindell's story gets tricky. According to him, he said a prayer, asked God for his addiction to be gone, and "I woke up the next day ... I go, 'Wow, something's different.'" His prayers, he said, were answered.

Here's his thoughts on a U.S.-based company

Buying American-made products has been a big deal for a long time, with more and more companies outsourcing their manufacturing processes overseas. In 2020, Mike Lindell sat down with Yahoo! Finance to talk about why it was important for him to keep all of his company in the United States. Part of it, he said, was the fact that he considered his employees to be one big, extended family that he was grateful to be able to provide for.

He went on to say that he knew it wasn't just his company that was impacted, but everyone who he bought all his raw materials from, too. When asked about whether or not it was detrimental to his bottom line to stay in the U.S., he explained that it wasn't.

"When you get something from overseas, you're at their mercy," he said. "It comes, it takes 90 days, 120 days, the money you have to give them, so your money's tied up." He went on to say that if he found himself needing more or less product, then either way, it ended up costing him money that he didn't need to spend, or time waiting for a re-order, or extra on rush shipping. "And then you're right back to where you would be," he added, and explained that he still likes to be able to inspect all the products before they leave the My Pillow factories.

Here's how he became friends with Donald Trump

According to Mike Lindell's own admissions, he knew nothing about politics even into his My Pillow years. He had never even voted, but in 2020, he was appearing alongside President Donald Trump as one of the loudest conservative voices ... so what happened in the meantime? Lindell told People that they first hit it off when he was invited to Trump Tower in New York. He said they chatted about business, and "after that, I'd see him at different events and stuff and we became friends."

Lindell has since become a fixture among Trump supporters, up to and including his unwavering belief in a stolen presidential election. He's also said that he'd been pushed to run for governor of Minnesota (not precisely by Trump, but by other devout Republicans), and Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh called him "a great American [who] is grateful to the country that gave him a second chance at life."

Things might not be as straightforward as they seem, though. In 2021, Lindell told Politico that he had headed out to Nashville's Republican Governors Association conference and was kicked out. He claimed he was invited, but they said he absolutely was not. And in 2023, Lindell was getting vocal about something else — slipping sales, and My Pillow products being removed by retailers. Why? The backlash against hardline conservatives and the sorts of conspiracy theories — including that about election fraud — that he had been peddling.

The Better Business Bureau has been chronically unimpressed with My Pillow

What's a really great pillow worth? While it might seem like the logical answer is, "It's priceless," Mike Lindell did, in fact, put a price on his perfect pillow — and it ended up getting him in trouble with the Better Business Bureau. In 2017, USA Today Money got in touch with the BBB after learning that they had pulled their accreditation of Lindell's My Pillow (which, as of this writing, has an "F" rating on the BBB website). Senior Vice President of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota Barb Grieman explained that the big problem was the seemingly perpetual offering of a Buy-One-Get-One "sale": They had been offering an $89.97 BOGO sale for so long that it wasn't actually a sale — it was just regular price. 

Customer complaints seemed to indicate there was a trend of other problems, too, including misleading photos on packaging and a failure to honor claims of a full warranty. Did Mike Lindell have something to say about it? He absolutely did.

Even into 2021, Lindell continued to claim that the BBB's F rating came not because of any problems with the company, their advertising, or their product, but because he was such a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. While he was promoting his autobiography on Steve Bannon's "War Room," he said (via Newsweek): "The Better Business Bureau, the crooked Better Business Bureau, which took me from an A+ to an F." He added: "Still, an F is fantastic, people!"

The quack COVID cure he promoted was problematic

It wasn't long after the appearance of COVID-19 that the world started hoping for a cure, and in the summer of 2020, Mike Lindell was very vocal about how certain he was that the cure was something called oleandrin. While several studies looked into oleandrin as a potential treatment for leukemia and coronavirus, nothing was conclusive or recommended by mainstream medicine.

On the contrary, there was a good chance it was dangerous. Medical ethnobotanist Cassandra Quave researches the medical properties of plants, and writing for The Conversation noted that oleandrin is derived from the oleander plant, which is highly toxic, responsible for numerous accidental poisoning cases each year, and yes, it can be lethal. Furthermore, she wrote, "Oleandrin is the chemical that causes the plant's lethal toxicity." Pretty straightforward, right?

Lindell's so-called cure got him all the way to the White House, along with a company that he had a financial stake in, Phoenix Biotechnology, which was developing an oleandrin supplement. Fast forward to 2022, and The Daily Beast did a deep dive into Lindell's so-called solution, connecting him to a dark-money organization called Propter Strategies that was seemingly working in tandem with Phoenix. They were apparently behind pushing oleandrin as a cure, making millions in the process. Lindell claimed to have no knowledge of the organization, but his connections to Propter officials ran deep. 

Here's how the Prove Mike Wrong Challenge didn't go as he expected

Anyone who knows anything about Mike Lindell knows that he's been one of the loudest voices shouting claims of election fraud, and in August of 2021, he put his money where his mouth is ... sort of. He offered a $5 million prize in what he called the "Prove Mike Wrong Challenge" to whoever could show his data on China interfering with the election was false. And did someone prove him wrong? Of course, and he's a software engineer named Robert Zeidman. Zeidman told NPR's Morning Edition that he considers himself a conservative Republican, and added that after his findings went public, Trump supporters were among those reaching out to thank him.

"I've made the argument that Lindell is hurting Trump much more than he's helping him, because everything Lindell is presenting is so obviously bogus that it just makes any talk about voter fraud or voter integrity look silly," Zeidman explained. "So even big Trump supporters thanked me." Fast forward to 2023, and Zeidman confirmed that he hadn't been paid the amount Lindell promised ... so, he went to court.

The matter went to arbitration, and it was determined that yes, Lindell owed Zeidman the money. He was told to pay up within 30 days, and when he didn't Zeidman escalated the matter to federal court. Lindell explained that it wasn't about the money, saying (via The Washington Post), "They're just doing this trying to discredit the evidence and the evidence is all there. We're taking it to court. It's just all corrupt."

After being banned from other media channels, he made his own

Mike Lindell hasn't had great luck promoting his conspiracy theories on mainstream social media channels. In 2021, Twitter banned him for continued claims of election fraud, and when he just made another account and tried to get back on in 2022, he was banned again. Also in 2021, Lindell released his documentary "Absolute Proof," in which he claimed to back up his election fraud allegations. After the movie was flagged by Vice, it was removed from YouTube. 

Lindell then decided to establish his own social media network called Frank. He described it as a place where everyone was going to be able to speak freely and make all the claims they wanted, where the only things that were off-limits were three words (beginning with "f," "c," and "n"), and all blasphemy. After claiming that it was going to put both YouTube and Twitter out of business, Frank launched ... and then was immediately taken out by a massive cyberattack. 

By 2023 it would seem that things still haven't gone precisely according to his plan. He told Right Side Broadcasting that he was going to be offering stock to the public. The reason, he said, was twofold: "I want every person out there to have a little piece of the pie for our voice for this country ... The money that I used to save this country, that I've been out spending — I've spent over $40 million. I need help."

He apparently backpedaled on a donation that went to Kyle Rittenhouse

There have been so many high-profile trials in recent years that it takes something really huge to stay in the headlines for more than a news cycle, and one of those massive cases was the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Accused of shooting and killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during mass protests, Rittenhouse was released on bail that — according to his attorney, Lin Wood — had been raised with the help of a few major donors.

Wood gave a specific shout-out to Ricky Schroder and Mike Lindell for providing large sums that went to the $2 million bail. Lindell, however, seemed to backpedal and deny that's what he wanted his money to go to.

According to the Minnesota Reformer, Lindell had donated $50,000 to The Fight Back Foundation Inc., later saying in a statement, "I was hunting this weekend and came back to headlines about a recent donation. I want to clarify. I made a $50,000 donation to the general fund of The Fight Back Foundation Inc. to help fund election fraud litigation, among other things." It's unclear when he made the donation, but according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Fight Back Foundation had announced a few months prior that they would be working with Rittenhouse's legal team.

His suggestion for stopping perceived voter fraud is a bad idea

The Election Crime Bureau Summit sounds like it would have some important stuff going on, but according to USA Today, it was basically a think tank of far-right conspiracy theorists. Mike Lindell spearheaded the whole thing, and when it came time to talk about censorship and social media, he observed, "We were about to be Nazi Germany, where nobody could speak out and nobody had a voice, and if you did speak out, you were hauled away, and everybody else cowered in fear."

Lindell went on to claim that the election was all part of God's plan to mobilize people into saving the country, and he also went on to unveil part of his plan to do exactly that. On the second day of the conference, he revealed his "Wireless Monitoring Device," which was basically a drone capable of picking up WiFi. He claimed that the devices could be flown over voting centers to collect information that would be archived and analyzed for evidence of fraud. 

Only, there could be a massive problem with that. When The Daily Beast did a deep dive into the possibilities that this might become a thing, they repeated his acknowledgment that the device also grabbed information from cell phones within range. But some states definitely have laws in place that state that flying surveillance drones around buildings is very much illegal, and that means they, too, are illegal.

Voter fraud lawsuits have put him in a dire financial situation

Mike Lindell's claims of voter fraud and a stolen election didn't go unnoticed by the companies responsible for some key parts of the elections, and after Dominion settled that massive, headline-making lawsuit against Fox, they still had one going against Lindell. According to The Guardian, it's been an ongoing matter that was stuck in the discovery phase for a long time, because Lindell had apparently been fighting it. In 2022, the voting machine company Smartmatic also filed a lawsuit against him.

In September 2023, videos were released of Lindell's depositions in a defamation suit brought by Dominion's Eric Coomer, and the third time was not the charm. Attorneys trying to talk to him described him as "vulgar, threatening, loud, disrespectful to Dr. Coomer's counsel and the Court, evasive, and largely non-responsive to questioning. When CNBC asked Lindell about it, he called the entire thing "a disgrace to our country."

The following month, Lindell was in the headlines for another reason: His attorneys were asking to be removed from both his Dominion and Smartmatic cases, because he couldn't pay them either their back fees or fees going forward. Lindell was on Steve Bannon's War Room when he shared that he hadn't paid them in several months, saying "I — can't pay the lawyers. We can't pay. There's no money left to pay them. I don't know where that leaves us," (via CNN). According to what he told CNN, he had no intentions of settling the cases.

His attempt at suing the Daily Mail for defamation didn't go as planned

In 2021, the Daily Mail ran a surprisingly detailed article that claimed they had uncovered some exclusive information about a top-secret relationship between Mike Lindell and "30 Rock" actress Jane Krakowski. They claimed that the two had been an item for nine months, had been friends for eight years, and split up after something went terribly wrong during a weekend in the Hamptons.

The end of the article even quoted both Lindell and Krakowski denying the story, and later, Krakowski's rep released an official statement to E! News (via Yahoo), "Jane has never met Mr. Lindell. She is not and has never been in any relationship with him, romantic or otherwise. She is, however, in full fledged fantasy relationships with Brad Pitt, Rege-Jean Page, and Kermit the Frog, and welcomes any and all coverage on those."

Doubts circulated from the time the story ran, mostly based around their wildly different political views. But it was Lindell who decided to try to sue for defamation, saying that the Mail's claim he had bought alcohol for Krakowski went against his longtime sobriety. It didn't work: The suit was dismissed, and according to the official judgment (obtained by The Hollywood Reporter), "Even assuming the romance never happened, [it] would not defame Lindell."