Mike Lindell (aka the “MyPillow Guy”) has long been one of Donald Trump’s staunchest allies. He’s called Trump the “greatest president” ever and suggested that Trump was chosen by God for the role.
And because Trump likes people who like him, the President has been similarly complimentary of Lindell. “Boy, do you sell those pillows,” Trump told Lindell at an event at the White House in March. (Lindell’s pillow, which is touted for its comfort, has made him a multimillionaire.) Lindell has also claimed that Trump has urged him to run for office.
But Trump has done more than just praise Lindell. He allowed Lindell to take part in a July White House meeting about the potential therapeutic properties of something called oleandrin, an extract from the oleander plant.
“He was enthusiastic, as he is on everything that’s going to help people,” Lindell told CNN of Trump’s reaction to the extract and its possible uses, including as a potential therapeutic for coronavirus. (Important note: Neither Lindell nor Trump are medical doctors or infectious disease experts.)
And in an, uh, interesting coincidence, Lindell was added to the board of (and received a financial stake in) Phoenix Biotechnology, which produced oleadrin, earlier this month.
All of which brings me to Tuesday, when Lindell was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. It was, by any objective measure, an absolute and total disaster for Lindell – and oleandrin.
Lindell began the interview by recounting how, shortly after he asked the entire country to pray for a solution to the coronavirus pandemic, he was contacted – on Easter Sunday! – by the maker of oleandrin. He immediately took the notion to Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, who is an actual medical doctor, despite the fact that there had been no peer-reviewed studies of the efficacy (or not) of the extract. Lindell told Cooper he felt that the 1,000 people who had taken oleandrin in 2016 – long before Covid-19 existed – and not had any adverse reactions was proof enough.
That led to this epic exchange (it’s long, but soooo worth your while):
Lindell: Well, the 1,000 people are out there. I don’t know if you can’t find it. But I’m not a medical doctor. I just know that Ben Carson, who’s on the task force, he brought it to the President, going –
Cooper: OK. But, stop, sir. Ben Carson has in the past been paid to promote supplements and got in trouble for it in 2015. So he has a track record on that. You are telling people that this cures Covid. You have no studies to prove it. And you are saying 1,000 people were tested –
Lindell: You know what: I got my own study. When I took the – When I’ve seen the test of 1,000 people that it was safe. That’s all I needed.
Cooper: Sir, OK, if you’ve seen this test, where is this test?
Lindell: I’ve been taking it since April. I’ve been taking it since April. I have 100 friends and family – this thing works. It’s the miracle of all time.
Cooper: You said – Sir, you said you’ve seen this test, where is it?
Lindell: The tests are out there. The thousand people – phase one, phase two.
Cooper: Where is the test? Show it to us.
Lindell: I don’t have the test.
Whoa boy. And it only got worse from there.
Lindell claimed that the “FDA has had it since April” and accused Cooper of misconstruing him “because the media’s trying to take away this amazing cure that works for everybody.”
(Note: The FDA has not approved oleandrin. The agency generally does not approve dietary supplements, but says it’s the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are safe and claims are true. FDA has gone after hundreds of products for making false claims about diagnosing, preventing or treating Covid-19.)
Cooper responded to Lindell with this:
“Sir, just for our viewers, you have no medical background. You’re not a scientist. A guy called you in April, said he had this product. You are now on the board and going to make money from the sale of this product. … And you stand to make money from it. How do you sleep at night?”
Lindell kept at it, noting, “this works and I’m standing by what I believe in. I have no monetary gain here.” (That last part is demonstrably false.)
He suggested Cooper “probably” sleeps on a MyPillow. (Cooper said he doesn’t.)
And he insisted that he had done “my due diligence and studies with the Covid and humans and not published yet.” (Er, OK.)
These are the people who Trump has elevated to positions of power and influence as the country continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic. People who do what he does – push unproven cures (hydroxychloroquine! bleach injections! – without any sense of the damage they are doing to those who follow them most ardently.
Kudos to Anderson for exposing just how thin the “science” on claims like the ones Lindell are making really are. Swallowing Lindell’s junk science isn’t just embarrassing. It could be dangerous.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Betsy Klein and Allison Gordon contributed to this report.