For the past four years, most American conglomerates have been trying to avoid the appearance of the party while at the same time stepping away from the fanatical rhetoric of former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters, with a tight grip to keep customers and employees satisfied.
That was another story from MyPillow. Mike Lindell, the company’s founder and CEO, remains one of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters. His constant peddling of the exposed conspiracy theories about election fraud got him banned from Twitter on Monday night. With retailers such as Kohl’s and other large firms severing ties with the private manufacturer, Mr. Lindell has tried to turn his pillows into partying.
Lindell said in an interview this month with the pro-Trump online channel Right Side Broadcasting Network, which provided a discount code for viewers to use on MyPillow’s website.
Mr. Lindell’s unfounded claims about election fraud have sparked a backlash against MyPillow in recent weeks, with several retailers deciding to stop selling their products, an example for Seeing his personality strongly influence the public’s perception of his company.
Mr. Lindell, a former cocaine addict and gambling addict, started the company after the idea of MyPillow came to him in a dream in 2004, according to his memoir. He is now a devout and believing Christian that has helped him recover.
MyPillow is headquartered in Chaska, Minn., And Mr. Lindell said in an interview this week that the company employs nearly 2,500 people. Its products – more than 100 products – are widely distributed in national chains, and Mr. Lindell’s face stands out on its patented information products and pillow cases. . Two former MyPillow employees, who were anonymous because they feared retaliation, said they were asked to display multiple CEO cardboard in his stores and play commercial games.
Politics has been an important part of the identities of Mr. Lindell and MyPillow over the past decade, following the success of the commercial news channel, first aired in 2011 and then a hit on Fox News. , according to memoirs and interviews with former employees.
The company said in court filings it spends an average of $ 5 million a month on advertising. While Mr. Lindell said he advertised on The New York Times and CNN, the majority of his spending was on Fox News – 59% of the company’s total TV spending last year, according to data from MediaRadar – lifted his profile with the former president, an avid internet viewer.
“Politics doesn’t affect your business,” he said in an interview this week. “I never alienated anyone except bots and trolls and famous media jobs.”
Mr. Lindell said MyPillow’s 2019 revenue exceeded $ 300 million. MyPillow sells through its website and is made up of by giant retail companies like Walmart, Amazon and Costco.
According to Aaron Morgan, a shopping planner at MyPillow from September 2019 to March of last year, the company has strong ties and its leadership is conservative, with Mr. Lindell employing multiple members. in his own family and even the sister of former Vice President Mike Pence.
“Most companies say they’re not talking about politics,” Mr. Morgan said, noting that Mr. Lindell was a pleasant man. “But a lot of people there talked about politics. Everyone there was clearly leaning towards Mike’s beliefs because they were all family. It’s not uncommon to see MAGA hats on a desk. “
Mr. Morgan shared the card pictures Mr. Lindell presented to staff last year, which used the king card to show Mr. Trump as Julius Caesar’s representative, Hillary Clinton in the orange jumpsuit above Queen card, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer in the joke role. Mr. Lindell, who also has a lovely look in the deck, says the cards were given to him as a gift and kept in his office and can be picked up by staff if they wish.
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Mr. Lindell’s politics infiltrates his company in other ways. On January 6, the day of the riot at the Capitol, MyPillow’s website accepted the discount code “FightForTrump” advertised on his show by a conservative radio host. Mr. Lindell, who retweeted the discount code that day, claimed without proof that Twitter employees gained access to his account and re-posted this post with his name. .
“We looked at the code violations and enforcement as a result and found no evidence to support Mr. Lindell’s allegations,” said a Twitter representative.
Violence in Washington launched a social media campaign against MyPillow and Mr. Lindell, led by the Sleeping Giant group, was formed in 2016 to stop companies from advertising on Breitbart News. According to Mr. Lindell, the pressure has caused retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, HEB, Today Shopping Choice in Canada and Wayfair to give up MyPillow products without providing evidence that the protest was caused by a “bot. and scammers ”.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s cited the brand’s underperformance for their exits, while Today’s Shopping Options made no comment beyond confirming the deletion. Wayfair declined to comment and HEB did not respond to a request for comment. Zulily said they stopped providing MyPillow in July. Affirm, the financial startup, privately confirmed that it severed ties with MyPillow last week.
Matt Rivitz, co-founder of Sleeping Giants, said the claim about the bot was “ridiculous.” During Trump’s presidency, he said, consumers became more and more aware of their collective strength, starting with Breitbart ads and boycotting Ivanka Trump products at Nordstrom. This is the pinnacle of those efforts.
“There have been a number of videos of Lindell making these praises about how the election was stolen and obviously led to violence,” said Mr. Rivitz. “It is just a natural tendency to ask companies if they support it because in the end these companies have benefited so much from democracy and they may not want to see the country fall in. chaos because of these lies. “
Mr. Lindell said only one of the companies that dropped his product cited false information about the voting machine, but added, “It’s a coincidence that there are more than 9 companies doing it on the same day. . ” However, he said that he is not worried about the impact on his business. He added that he did not view his comments to Right Side Broadcasting as “politically false” and blamed “cultural destruction” on the retailers’ actions, although he expected guess they’ll come back to sell his product.
This month, Mr. Lindell was pictured at the White House with notes mentioning the Resurrection Act, under which a president can deploy active troops on the streets.
Until around 2011, MyPillow was operating out of an old bus garage in Minnesota, with about 40 employees, according to Tonja Waring, who worked there from 2009 to 2012 and appeared on the information pages. its trade. Ms. Waring said Mr. Lindell is very loyal and often resists conventional wisdom on issues such as maintaining production in the United States.
“He doesn’t care what people think or what they say – he cares about doing the right thing,” she said. She added that Mr. Lindell has become more comfortable in the limelight than when she first met him, when he “barely got on TV”.
While trade information drove MyPillow’s growth, they also raised complaints. In a 2016 settlement, MyPillow paid a $ 995,000 fine after a group of California-based attorneys issued a company statement that their product could alleviate insomnia, fibromyalgia. and other medical conditions. Last year, Mr. Lindell also faced criticism after giving Mr. Trump an unproven “cure” Covid-19.
When a customer asked about health claims featured in a MyPillow ad, two former store employees said they would try to evade the audience without confirming or rejecting promises made. in advertising. A former employee said Lindell also pushed stores to sell other products that workers were wary of, such as a powder that was supposed to stop bleeding within seconds.
In his memoirs, Mr. Lindell wrote about “a shady bankruptcy” he declared in 2003 to avoid a lawsuit involving a bar he owned, working with a lender. he met through the bookmaker’s stepchild, who encouraged Mr. Lindell to set up fake creditors.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve colored the lines outside of the rule lines,” he writes of the episode.
Even now, when the retailers cut ties and he was kicked out of Twitter, Mr. Lindell still challenges, convincing that the “real people” are not interested in the claims he has made.
“The people on the left, the Democrats, they’re buying the same amount of stuff they’ve always bought from me,” he said, “and my supporters who stand up and destroy the culture are buying more.”