Minnesota's Mike Lindell rides MyPillow empire to the fringes of US politics
From self-described humble beginnings, "the MyPillow guy" this week risks much of his political fortunes on a last-ditch effort to prove that there was tampering in the results of the 2020 presidential election.
ST. PAUL — In his memoir, Mike Lindell writes of being many things at once.
Over the course of the 2019 book “What Are the Odds?” he stars as an underdog, entrepreneur, escape artist, card shark, drug addict, born-again Christian and, eventually, the inventor of and CEO for MyPillow.
Those who knew Lindell before he became famous, first in widespread advertisements as “the MyPillow guy,” and more recently as a far-right conservative voice on the national political scene, describe a man who was selfless in helping others and had his hopes on more than just comfortable bedding.
But the outspoken Lindell, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign chairman for Minnesota, has said less and less about the role Trump reportedly encouraged him to pursue: governor of Minnesota.
Gubernatorial hopefuls have from May 17, 2022, until May 31, 2022, to file for candidacy in the election, meaning Lindell, who has never held an elected office before, still has plenty of time to enter the race.
(Lindell did not respond to repeated requests for an interview for this story.)
At one time, however, Lindell genuinely was mulling a run in 2022, according to Bob Roepke, who was mayor of Chaska, Minnesota, from 1984 to 2002. MyPillow has been headquartered in Chaska since the company’s 2009 founding. Roepke sat on the board of MyPillow until January of this year, when he resigned due to what he said were disagreements with Lindell, and personal health issues.
“I think his consideration of that was pretty serious. Where that is now, or what it is now, I’m not sure,” Roepke said in a July interview.
Among the disagreements the two had was the validity of the 2020 presidential election, which Roepke said he did not believe to be fraudulent.
Lindell, however, has been outspoken in his belief of widespread fraud in the 2020 election that saw Trump lose reelection to Democrat Joe Biden. To date, there has been no evidence presented of widespread voter fraud in 2020.
That detail has not stopped the MyPillow inventor from embarking on a crusade to unearth evidence of voter fraud, including filing suit against voting equipment manufacturer Dominion. Dominion, for its part, has countersued Lindell and others, alleging defamation.
In television and podcast appearances, Lindell has pushed the baseless claim that voting machines used in the presidential election were tampered with. He has pledged to unveil his findings at a three-day “cyber symposium” beginning Aug. 10, reportedly taking place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
And he cited his mistrust of voting equipment when asked about a potential run for governor on a recent “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” interview, saying he “wouldn’t run to be a dogcatcher right now if those machines are still in.”
Mike Webb is a 20-year member of the City Council in Carver, Minnesota. In 2012, Webb dealt with Lindell during the permitting process for his MyPillow plant there.
Webb, a self-described “recovering Republican,” believes the defamation suit filed against Lindell by Dominion, and Lindell’s embrace of the toxic plant extract oleandrin as a COVID-19 cure, may have harmed his chances of securing the Minnesota Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination.
“I think three months ago,” Webb said in a June interview, “he was probably the GOP’s lead candidate. And Trump would have backed him.”
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Despite the defamation lawsuit and numerous certifications of Biden’s win, Lindell continues to assert that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump, and that Trump will somehow be reinstalled as commander in chief this month. He told a crowd gathered in Mitchell, South Dakota, in May that the U.S. Supreme Court would, upon examining proof of fraud, vote unanimously “to pull the election down.”
Webb, who retired from local politics in 2018 after a four-year term as mayor of Carver, said Lindell’s rise to prominence has surprised him. He recalled Lindell being difficult to work with during the permitting process for the MyPillow plant.
Roepke described Lindell as a loyal person with a heart for those in need. He recalled Lindell employing people experiencing homelessness, and leaping to lend money for a low-income housing development in Chaska.
Asked if Lindell’s turn toward increasingly extreme politics surprised him, Roepke said he knew Lindell “relative to the business side.”
“Politics wasn’t part of the discussion. I didn’t see him in that light, so I didn’t see where that was something he desired in being involved with,” he said.
‘It’s all come down to this’
So far, the most prominent Republican to launch a 2022 campaign for Minnesota governor is former state Sen. Scott Jensen. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has also publicly expressed an interest in challenging Gov. Tim Walz, who is expected to run for reelection.
In a June interview, Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said she did not know if Lindell was in serious talks for a run.
“It's hard for me to comment because, as chair of the party, our governing documents require that the officers of our party stay neutral until after our endorsing convention, which will take place in May of 2022,” she said.
Among Republicans seeking to retake not only the governorship but both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature, Walz’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a major issue. Gazelka has repeatedly assailed the governor for not involving the Legislature in his decision-making and for reauthorizing the emergency powers granted to him.
And though Jensen lists “election integrity” as an issue on his campaign website, he says far more there about averting future lockdowns and school closures due to COVID-19.
Lindell, in contrast, has stayed out of the Minnesota fray, and publicly said little of Walz.
Instead, Lindell earlier this year focused his efforts on the April launch of his social media app, Frank. Technical issues have kept it from becoming the promised conservative “free speech” alternative to Twitter.
Then in May, Lindell was thrown out of a Republican Governors’ Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Trump ally reportedly planned to confront attendees about election fraud.
On Friday, Aug. 6, CNN aired an interview with Lindell where he was confronted about the claims of election fraud. CNN in the piece said they contacted two dozen cybersecurity experts and election officials in counties whose results are disputed by Lindell — those sources, according to CNN, say Lindell’s claims are wrong.
Like the underdog/escape artist/card shark/self-made man he describes in his book, Lindell is doubling down: He is offering $5 million to anyone who can disprove data that he claims shows election interference.
Skeptics can claim the $5 million at Lindell’s South Dakota-based cyber symposium this week, which will stream live Aug. 10-12 at frankspeech.com .
In propping up his symposium, Lindell turned again to the brand that made him famous: He launched a “flash sale” for MyPillow that he said in a commercial will support the “historical event.”
“All of you know what MyPillow and myself have gone through in the past five months in my efforts to bring the truth forward. Well, it’s all come down to this,” he said of his symposium.