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How Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit exposes the My Pillow Guy’s patriot act

The legal complaint against Mike Lindell persuasively makes the case that he was motivated more by marketing than politics.

How Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit exposes the My Pillow Guy’s patriot act
[Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images]
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Mike Lindell, aka “The MyPillow Guy,” used Dominion Voting Systems’ technology as a scapegoat for Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election, until Dominion finally filed a $1.3 billion defamation suit against him.

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The suit, filed by top-shelf defamation attorneys Tom Clare and Megan Meier, sets out to do two main things. It details all the times Lindell falsely asserted that Dominion machines were programmed to steal votes from Trump and give them to Biden (to “steal” the election), and it makes the case that Lindell’s noisy embrace of Trump was motivated by a desire to sell pillows to right-wingers, not so much by political true belief.

The lawsuit begins by showing that Lindell hasn’t always been honest in marketing claims about his pillows. Lindell was sued in 2016 for making false claims in MyPillow infomercials.

A talented salesman, Lindell personally starred in MyPillow infomercials, which claimed that MyPillow would help people suffering from fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines and headaches, sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ, and restless leg syndrome—claims that prosecutors alleged were “untrue or misleading.” Rather than defending the truthfulness of MyPillow’s claims in court, Lindell opted to pay $995,000 in civil penalties.

Also in 2016, MyPillow was hit with a class action lawsuit alleging that the company’s infomercials hold out Lindell as a “sleep expert” when in fact he wasn’t. Again Lindell paid to make the case go away. The company was hit with another lawsuit in 2019 for “disseminating false and misleading advertisements.” MyPillow settled for $100,000.

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In 2019 the Better Business Bureau, after seeing “a pattern of consumer complaints,” pulled its accreditation of MyPillow and lowered the company’s rating to “F.”

Throughout the time when those legal issues were playing out, Lindell and MyPillow were spending millions to advertise on right-wing media, mainly Fox News, the lawsuit explains:

In large part, MyPillow’s success is due to a gamble Lindell made on Fox News years ago. Lindell went all in and spent his last $2 million buying airtime for MyPillow ads on Fox News. The bet paid off, yielding $8.19 million in returns. In the first three quarters of 2020, MyPillow spent more than $62 million on television ads, with nearly 99% of it going to cable channels like Fox News.

In the first half of 2020, MyPillow bought up an estimated 37.8% of the advertising on Tucker Carlson’s show, and 15% of the advertising on Sean Hannity’s show. Carlson called Lindell “probably the most famous face on Fox News.”

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Lindell’s vocal support for Donald Trump over the years has been “very good for business.” In July 2017, Lindell sat right next to Trump at a White House event and got “about the most valuable endorsement an American can possibly get.” President Trump, with a MyPillow an arm-length away, endorsed MyPillow on national television, saying, “I actually bought a couple of pillows and they’re very good. They’re great. I’ve slept so much better ever since.” Lindell has repeatedly touted the endorsement.

Lindell, an evangelical Christian and recovering drug addict, found that right-wing media appearances promoting the “Stop the Steal” cause produced even more opportunities to promote MyPillow. There was a common theme in Lindell’s appearances: His theories about how the 2020 election was “stolen” were almost always accompanied in some way by marketing messages for MyPillow.

Having been given a platform to promote the Big Lie, Lindell also took the opportunity to market MyPillow, saying that the “President loves” MyPillow and that people should go to MyPillow.com and use promo code “Gorka.” During the interview, the MyPillow logo, website, and phone number were also prominently displayed for viewers.

Lindell found more opportunities to plug MyPillow at rallies in Washington, D.C., on December 12. He spoke at a “Women for America First” rally. CSPAN covered the event and identified Lindell as “MyPillow CEO.” Lindell also spoke at the Jericho March that day, December 12, in D.C. MyPillow sponsored the event.

At the Jericho March, Eric Metaxas introduced Lindell and told the crowd to use the promo code “ERIC” to buy a MyPillow; this was followed by a MyPillow ad featuring Lindell on the broadcast of the march on Right Side Broadcasting Network (“RSBN”).

Lindell continued to claim that Dominion’s systems had been used to take votes from Trump and give them to Biden in media appearances in December. Throughout that month, MyPillow sponsored the “March for Trump” 20-city bus tour, which was created by the same Tea Party activists who created the original “Stop the Steal” Facebook group. It used a big red bus that bore a large MyPillow logo near its front. The bus tour culminated in a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6. Lindell spoke at the event.

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After the insurrection

In the days following the January 6 Capitol riots, the lawsuit states, MyPillow advertised on 16 television networks, with an estimated 44% of its ad spend going to Fox News, Fox Business, and Fox Sports. MyPillow also spent “tens of thousands of ad dollars” on Newsmax advertising in the week following the Capitol riot.

MyPillow did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The Washington Post asked Lindell to comment on the lawsuit’s suggestion that he hooked up with Trump more for marketing reasons than political ones. Lindell “scoffed” at the notion, saying his election fraud campaign has been bad for selling pillows. “I’ve lost 22 retailers. It has hit me financially like crazy,” he told the Post.

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But, of course, Lindell’s embrace of right-wing media goes back much farther than “Stop the Steal.” MyPillow’s $300 million in pillow sales in 2019 was at least partially attributable to Lindell’s multi-year investment in advertising and appearances on right-wing media. And retailers are just one channel through which MyPillow sells its wares.

New York Times columnist David Brooks has argued that there are three kinds of Trump supporters: True believers who think Trump can reform the government and restore the economy; pragmatists who support him for the financial gains that might result, such as tax cuts or business opportunities; and those who knew Trump was an unsavory character but saw him as useful to their long-term political goals.

Lindell may be a combination of the latter two. If he’s an evangelical, he may have seen Trump as a means to putting conservatives in the courts or overturning Roe v. Wade. What the lawsuit lays out so compellingly, however, is that a big part of Lindell’s enthusiastic support of Trump was driven by opportunism and a desire to tap the huge market of right-wingers who might sleep on MyPillows and dream dreams of the Trump America that might have been.

About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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