In the latest legal fallout from the post-election debacle, Dominion Voting Systems filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday against Michael Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow. The lawsuit claims that Lindell engaged in a defamatory marketing campaign against the election-technology company by spending months—including after Joe Biden was inaugurated—peddling the “Big Lie” about the election being stolen, and falsely accusing Dominion of manipulating algorithms to steal votes from former President Donald Trump.
Dominion filed separate suits in the same court last month against Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, while its competitor, Smartmatic, filed a suit in New York’s state supreme court earlier this month against Fox News and three of its anchors. One obvious hint that these suits—which each seek damages of over $1 billion—have merit is the way that some Trump-friendly TV outlets have, after receiving legal threats, aired incredibly awkward retractions and disclaimers regarding claims they had broadcast about the two companies.
The suit filed on Monday tells the tale of a twenty-first-century snake-oil salesman who capitalized on Trump’s pathological need to pretend he won the 2020 election in order to sell pillows to gullible Trump supporters—victims of yet another scam at the behest of their dear leader. The story reads like a slimy mix of greed, lies, and false victimhood—a fitting culmination of the failed presidency of Donald J. Trump, himself a reality TV star who faked a successful career in business all the way to the White House.
The big losers here, yet again, are the regular Americans who forked over money to Lindell, whom one consumer called “a hero, he’s a hardworking brilliant American Patriot who has risked everything and made incredible sacrifices for the sake of this country.” Another supporter wrote: “Made an executive decision today. IF another stimulus check is sent out, no matter how much it is, it’s going to buy me a MyPillow Mattress Topper! Going to use some of that money to support Mike!”
Among a litany of public statements against Dominion, the complaint alleges that Lindell knowingly lied on air about having “raw data analytics” that would demonstrate “a cyber footprint from inside [Dominion’s] machines” that was “going to show that Donald Trump won.” Worse, Lindell complained that he was being attacked by the left for speaking the truth, a lie-upon-a-lie that duped Trump supporters into buying pillows as an act of compassion, retaliation, and/or patriotism.
We all know why this is bad stuff. Even Mitch McConnell has acknowledged that the Big Lie harmed American democracy. But Dominion’s lawsuit makes clear that the Big Lie is also a cash cow for scam artists—after all, in the eight short weeks following the November 3 election, it moved $255.4 million from the bank accounts of Trump supporters into the coffers of the Trump campaign and the Republican party. For this lurid reason, the Big Lie is not going away anytime soon.
According to the complaint, Lindell’s scam involved payoffs to conservative news outlets reliant on his advertising dollars in exchange for airtime during the election season, spurring a 30 to 40 percent hike in sales. As a cable news “talking head,” Lindell plugged his pillows under the pretense that he had the dirt on Dominion that could produce a second Trump term—offering promo codes like “QAnon,” “FightforTrump,” “45,” and “Proof” to lure consumers into snagging up to 66 percent savings on his merchandise.
The New York Times describes Lindell is “a former crack cocaine and gambling addict” who, according to Dominion’s lawyers, accumulated a net worth of over $300 million using exceptional math skills honed during decades as a “professional card counter”:
While hunkered down at the blackjack table, he would feign a drunken stupor while hundreds of different number combinations ran through his mind like a “computerized algorithm,” enabling Lindell to calculate his bets based on the patterns he observed coming from the dealer’s hand.
Someone with such skills—a self-professed “numbers guy”—is too smart, the lawsuit says, to be confused about what really happened in the election.
Since founding MyPillow in 2004, Lindell has been the subject of multiple legal actions relating to alleged false and misleading claims, including those he personally pushed in informercials to sell pillows that “would help people suffering from fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines and headaches, sleep apnea, snoring, TMJ, and restless leg syndrome.” MyPillow has paid over a million dollars in civil penalties over the course of several years, prompting the Better Business Bureau to revoke its accreditation and lower its ratings score to an “F” based on consumer complaints.
Undeterred, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, after introducing Lindell on his January 26, 2021 show as “the CEO of MyPillow,” let Lindell spout off:
Lindell: Dominion went on TV and said they were going to go after Mike Lindell. Well, they did. They hired hit groups and bots and trolls, went after all my vendors, all these box stores to cancel me out. . . . I’ve been all in, trying to find the machine fraud—and we found it. We have all the evidence. . . . I have the evidence.
Needless to say, Lindell never actually produced on Fox the evidence that he claimed to have. The same day, Lindell was banned from Twitter.
Newsmax followed Fox’s lead and, according to the complaint, “bowed to the pressure and gave its financial backer a global platform to repeat the Big Lie that Newsmax knew was false.” In February, Lindell produced a “docu-movie” called ABSOLUTE PROOF, releasing it first on his own website (with links to MyPillow’s website and a promo code, naturally) and then on the OAN network and the website of the Right Side Broadcasting Network.
The complaint includes two counts—defamation and deceptive trade practices—and seeks nearly $652,000,000 in compensatory damages based on Dominion’s alleged financial loses and lost business due to Lindell’s claims, and the same amount in punitive damages.
The defense to defamation is truth. Dominion painstakingly picks apart the “raw data analytics” that presumably will be raised in Lindell’s defense, claiming that Lindell’s data was pulled from “The American Report conspiracy theory blog,” which was created by Trump campaign donor “and retired homemaker” Mary Fanning Kirchhoefer. Yet as Dominion’s lawyers explain,
Bipartisan election officials, judges, 59 election security experts, Attorney General Bill Barr, Trump appointee Chris Krebs, Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Colorado’s former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, and others have rebutted Lindell’s false claims about Dominion.
Lindell’s is an impossible defense to win on the facts.
In his January 26 appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show, Lindell said “I dare Dominion, just sue me because then it”—his purported evidence of election fraud—“would get out faster.” Now that he actually has been sued, Lindell hasn’t let up. In typical Trumpian fashion, he told the New York Times that “I’m very happy that they’ve done this.” Apparently, shelling out damages for duping consumers is just part of the cost of doing business in the pillow industry. No doubt Lindell is contented by the dollar signs that go along with Goebbels’s maxim often paraphrased as “If you tell a big lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
Unless and until the criminal justice system kicks in to impose real consequences, the Big Lie will continue to inflict widespread harm and suffering.