Trump Summons ‘My Pillow’ Pitchman Lindell to Talk Campaign Ads
(Bloomberg) -- As Donald Trump looked for help with his re-election advertising, he turned to a staunch supporter who built a national brand on the strength of ubiquitous cable TV ads: My Pillow Inc. founder Mike Lindell.
Lindell was invited to a June 9 White House meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, campaign manager Brad Parscale and other officials, the My Pillow chief executive officer said in an interview. He urged Trump to maintain a positive tone in his ads.
“The president likes my opinions obviously with ads -- I do put out a lot of ads,” Lindell said. “My ads would all be positive. Here’s a problem, solution, and here’s what it’s going to manifest to. And that’s what our president is so skilled in.”
The meeting came as Trump grappled with a series of crises: rolling nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, calls to address police brutality, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and his own sinking poll numbers. Lindell is Trump’s campaign chairman for Minnesota, a state the president narrowly lost in 2016 and thinks he can win this year.
“One hundred percent, he’s going to carry Minnesota. I promised him that,” Lindell said, describing the state as crucial politically and to the “spiritual warfare” in America. “I personally think it’s going to be a landslide, I really do. I think it’s going to be a landslide of epic proportions. Nationally.”
Lindell’s ads are in regular rotation on Fox News, which the president watches frequently. The meeting and Lindell’s remarks are the latest indication of the data-defying view of the campaign that Trump’s surrogates are building around the president’s bid for a second term.
The White House and Trump campaign declined to comment on the June 9th meeting.
A series of public polls have shown Trump’s presumptive challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, with a wide lead over the incumbent nationally, though the race is closer in key swing states. A Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey of Minnesota released May 24 found Biden with a five-point lead, 49-44, according to fivethirtyeight.com.
Trump and those around him have dismissed public polls showing him behind Biden, saying that internal polls show the president in close competition or leading in key states, particularly when the former vice president is “defined” -- meaning, portrayed in a negative light.
”We don’t put any stock in public polls. They’ve always been wrong about President Trump as we learned in 2016,” Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. “If the question is the economy, President Trump wins that argument, hands down.”
Lindell is something of a quintessential figure in Trump’s orbit: a relentless TV presence with a promoter’s flare. He drew scrutiny in 2016 over his ads -- My Pillow agreed to pay $1 million after 10 California district attorneys accused the company of false advertising.
Now, his ads evoke Trump’s America First mantra, touting U.S. manufacturing of his products. He’s a devout Christian and is candid with his own journey from crack cocaine addict and former bar owner to pillow and bedding CEO.
“All they’re trying to do now is delay things with this pandemic to mail-in voting. That’s what they’re trying to do,” he said in the interview, referring to Democrats. “They’re trying to steal the election from Donald Trump. They’re lying about the polls. It’s all a big lie again.”
Trump is now fewer than five months from election day, and he’s steadily encouraged Americans to put the coronavirus outbreak behind them even as the disease continues to infect upwards of 20,000 more people in the country every day. About 117,000 have died, and some states are only now seeing their first wave of the virus.
Trump will resume his signature campaign rallies with an event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday that city officials said will attract about 100,000 people. Tulsa’s top health official has warned against the rally out of concern it will worsen the county’s coronavirus outbreak, already the largest in the state.
But Trump is pressing ahead with the event. So is Lindell, who was announced Wednesday as one of more than 50 campaign surrogates who will be in Tulsa with the president.
Lindell’s company began making cloth face masks in March after the U.S. coronavirus outbreak blossomed, but he said he’s getting out of the business after it became crowded with competitors.
“The sales are just slow so I’m probably just going to quit making them,” he said.
Run for Governor
On Tuesday, the president signed an executive order aimed at improving training and standards for police behavior after Floyd’s death. He met privately beforehand with families of Black Americans killed in encounters with the police and other incidents, but then defended policing before signing the order and hailed his policies -- expanded access to private schools for some Black students, predictable funding for historically Black colleges, a booming economy -- as the answer to the nation’s racial divisions.
Lindell said it should be easier to immediately detain police suspected of a crime. “They need to be put on the same level as everyone else,” he said. He called Floyd’s death, after a white officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, a “murder” but said: “It had nothing to do with race.”
“It was a crime against humanity, and we’ve got to take the bad people, no matter what color they are, out of the police force and put them behind bars,” Lindell said.
Lindell is weighing a political career of his own: a potential run for Minnesota governor in 2022. He has sharply criticized the current governor, Tim Walz, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and their fellow Democrats for their handling of protests following Floyd’s death that evolved into riots and looting.
“When this is positioned right -- people had to live through this,” Lindell said, referring to the protests and looting. “The onion’s getting opened up and exposing them for who they are. Either they’re not very smart or they have their own agenda, or a combination of both.”
During the White House meeting, Lindell said he showed Trump texts from people the pillow executive said had once opposed the president but now support him. He said Trump raised Lindell’s own political future.
“He brought it up and he goes, ‘Mike, I think you’d be very good at it,’ and he gave me some encouragement,” Lindell said. The events of recent months have made a run more likely, he said.
“I just think Minnesota needs to have so much change and so much work to fix things, and I like a challenge, so I would be very much leaning that way,” he said.
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