My Pillow Inc’s chief executive, Mike Lindell, held a “cyber-symposium” in Sioux Falls, S.D., lasting from Tuesday to Thursday, August 10-12. He apparently believed that this event would persuade the world that the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, is still the President, leading to a reinstatement.

Of course, there is no constitutional procedure for a “reinstatement.”

The event proved less persuasive than Lindell had hoped. It didn’t include a lot of new information. The assembled crowd, both physical and virtual, watched an already-familiar conspiratorial “documentary” repeatedly.

Indeed, while the symposium was underway, a federal court ruled in favor of Dominion, the voting machines company that had been targeted by Lindell and others seeking to “Stop the Steal.” The court ruled, specifically, that it will allow Dominion to continue with its defamation lawsuits. (This does not amount to a ruling on any underlying factual question — but it was a rejection of Lindell’s and other defendants’ motions to dismiss on a variety of grounds.)

Only moments after that court ruling, video of the “cyber symposium” shows Lindell standing up and rushing backstage, behind a curtain.

During the event, Steve Bannon, an “alt-Right” intellectual and a member of the inner circle of Donald Trump’s advisors during the 2016 campaign – though they were keeping their distance by 2020 – was calling it a “mistake,” saying that Mike Lindell had failed to “bring the receipts” that would confirm his case.

Will There Be Business Fallout?

Twenty-two retailers have reportedly stopped selling the products of My Pillow Inc. in recent months.  

The retailers who have dropped the pillow include Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, and Wayfair. Costco did what Lindell calls a “slow cancellation.” It honored an existing contract but declined to renew.

Although it is, of course, possible for Lindell to continue to sell pillows by direct mail on the basis of his long-famous informercials, without the help of such intermediaries, their decisions have hurt his sales. He says the cancellations have cost him “$65 million this year that I won’t get back.”

Many big retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, have dropped My Pillow recently. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

The retailers contend that they are making no political statement. They are simply dropping a brand that hasn’t kept its sales numbers up. Politics probably plays a part in many consumers’ decisions, leading to those lower sales numbers, even if it plays no part in the decisions made by those chains. 

My Pillow’s revenue was over $300 million in 2019. It is difficult to find any source that gives or even estimates the 2020 number at higher than that.

In 2020, Mike Lindell went all in on an advertising campaign centered on Fox News. He spent more than $62 million on ads in the first quarter of the year, much of the ads airing on Fox. Indeed, My Pillow accounted for more than one-third of the ad revenue of Tucker Carlson’s show. My Pillow also advertised heavily on NewsMax, an organization that was devoting itself largely through the year to outflanking Fox News in its fidelity to Trump.

Are Politics Mike Lindell’s Priority?

In March of last year, with an election campaign and a pandemic well underway, Lindell attracted some publicity by announcing that he would retrofit MyPillow factories to manufacture masks: indeed, that masks would become 75% of the company’s production.

Unfortunately, a lot of other companies moved into mask manufacturing, and My Pillow had no comparative advantage in that space, so the effort seems to have been written off by June. It did have the side effect of associating Lindell and My Pillow closely in the public mind with President Trump. That may not have helped.

Lindell may not care. He may be willing to sacrifice his business to his political cause. That is the gist of a powerfully argued Politico magazine piece by David Siders.

Siders quotes a man named Bob Roepke, once the mayor of the town in which Lindell grew up, more recently a member of the My Pillow board. Roepke sees Lindell’s life as two arcs: he built a life, wrecked it, built it up again more grandly, and seems bent on wrecking that too.

The conspiracy theories around Mike Lindell’s obsession with taking down an election are, Roepke says, “off the rails.”

Mike Lindell appears not to be what Dominion charges that he is: a huckster selling a fake political theory in order to sell pillows. He is something very different: a true believer willing to sacrifice his ability to sell pillows for the Greater Good as he conceives of it. Perhaps his dash backstage at the cyber-symposium indicates a growing awareness of just how great the cost may yet be.