Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow Inc., has been making headlines for the last few months thanks to his apparently close friendship with former President Donald Trump. Lindell held no formal post in the White House, yet he often visited during Trump's tenure and seemed to have a clear political agenda of his own. To understand why some were put off by Lindell's lobbying, it is important to get a clear impression of the businessman himself.
In January, The Washington Post published photos of Lindell leaving the White House with some concerning notes clearly visible in his hand. Lindell carried notes that clearly concerned matters of state, perhaps indicating that he was making suggestions to Trump during his most recent White House visit. This is concerning to some, as Lindell is not an elected or appointed official, but a consistent political donor, now possibly exercising influence over U.S. politics. Some are not eager to see such importance assigned to the man commonly referred to as "the My Pillow guy."
Lindell comes from Minnesota originally, where he was born in 1961. He was brought up in the state through college and made some of his first forays into entrepreneurship there. At the same time, he developed crippling addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol, according to an interview with CNBC.
Lindell told the outlet that he created the My Pillow "from scratch" in 2004, in the throes of his drug addiction. He sold four bars that he owned to finance the project, and mortgaged his home, which he owned. As the business was taking off, Lindell said that he achieved sobriety "through prayer," adding: "It can be done, people." Still, the confluence of a rising business and an addiction battle presented a challenge for Lindell.
Lindell's "My Pillow" is a patented design made from poly-foam material. Early on, he was lauded for bringing a manufacturing business back to Minnesota, though the company later faced criticism for falsely advertising that the product could help with snoring, fibromyalgia, migraines and other medical conditions. My Pillow gained success through energetic infomercials, and Lindell tried to maintain that spirit as he appeared on Fox News more and more often.
Lindell was married for 20 years before launching his pillow empire, and he claimed that his addiction came between him and his wife. He said that he lost his home at the time too, though he had another by the time he founded My Pillow. Many of the details of his personal life come from his own descriptions in his memoir What Are the Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO, which he published himself.
Lindell did not become politically outspoken until 2016 when he fervently endorsed Trump. He has often related his support for Trump to his evangelical Christian faith, saying in a university speech in 2019: "When I met with Donald Trump, it felt like a divine appointment, and when I walked out of that office I decided I was going to go all in."
Since entering the realm of politics, Lindell has often come under fire for promoting conspiracy theories and making false promises. In August, Lindell promoted a plant extract called oleandrin as a COVID-19 "cure," though it was later revealed he sat on the board of a company that manufactured the substance. Still, Trump allowed him to come to the White House and talk about this unproven treatment in the Oval Office.
Finally, in the fall Lindell was among those that joined Trump in spreading conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election and trying to overturn the results. Lindell was also present at Trump's rally before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. It is unclear how much influence Lindell exerts over Trump at this point, but his rhetoric and ideas skew to the extreme in many cases. Lindell continues to speak out about politics even now that Trump is out of office.