MyPillow man Mike Lindell's new social platform does not have optimal launch

Lindell claims 90 million visitors to broken site; is trolled by Trump prankster, interrupted by Salon reporter

Published April 21, 2021 8:15AM (EDT)

My Pillow CEO Michael Lindell (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
My Pillow CEO Michael Lindell (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new alternative social media platform FRANK — which (somehow) is supposed to stand for "Free, Forthright, and Sincere Expression of Speech" — was originally scheduled to welcome fearless pro-Trump and pro-pillow users last Thursday at midnight. That deadline came and went with no successful launch, and another was scheduled for Monday at 9 a.m. Eastern. That one didn't happen either.

Instead, the bedding magnate, whose company filed a $1.6 billion dollar lawsuit against Dominion Voting Systems on Monday — precisely matching Dominion's defamation suit against Lindell and his company — remained in his familiar domain, hosting a disjointed live stream described as a "48-hour Frank-a-thon," interrupted by prank callers and an impromptu interview with a Salon reporter. (This one.) 

Thursday's "VIP" launch of FRANK had been endlessly hyped by Lindell during numerous appearances on Steve Bannon's podcast and guest shots on about every far-right YouTube channel under the sun. Early adopters could supposedly get onto the platform ahead of others and seize a golden opportunity to learn how FRANK worked. But the launch on Thursday night never got off the ground, leaving many of Lindell's most loyal fans asking each other hopeless questions and missing out not on a good night's sleep.

"Launch is a fail, but that's forgivable; not communicating isn't," one supporter of Lindell's wrote on Telegram. "Can someone call Mike?" another user asked the group. Many people in pro-Trump forums and followers of Lindell's Telegram account stayed up into the early morning hours on Friday, waiting for the platform to go live, which did not happen. When Salon spoke to Lindell about Thursday's failure during our live conversation Monday night, Lindell described the complaints from his fans as a bunch of "bots."

Over the weekend, there was no communication from Lindell to his supporters online about the status of FRANK, but the pillow maven did appear at the far-right "Health and Freedom Conference" in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where he delivered a cookie-cutter stump speech with conference-goers. 

With Thursday, FRANK's for-real was still set for Monday at 9 a.m. The clock ticked past that hour with Lindell's website displaying error messages. The new era of "free speech" was embodied, at least for the moment, by a "502" page. 

Lindell finally responded to his unhappy would-be users on Monday by claiming on Parler that his site was "having a massive attack against it." He added, "We are working to get it up ASAP! Thank you for your patience."

Things did not improve from that point, as Lindell's live Frank-a-thon was disrupted by a series of prank phone calls, including one that opened with an audio clip of Donald Trump saying, "Hello, everyone." Lindell appeared overjoyed by the prospect that the former president was calling in to congratulate him and responded, "Ah, we have the president here ― our real president, everyone. Hello, Mr. President!" 

Those high hopes came to nothing, as the caller yelled: ", bitches!" before hanging up. He later identified himself as Ron Blackman, host of the British podcast "The Macron Show." 

Lindell did not seem to take the prank calls in stride, declaring at one point: "We were under the biggest attack in history for a website." Pressed about the supposed "attack" during his conversation with Salon on Monday night, Lindell maintained it was the work of a "hacker." "My phone has been hacked," Lindell said. "I have guys here; we have protection; we have cyber guys. Yes, it was hacked, and yes, we have proof."

In a follow-up interview on Tuesday, Lindell seemed to recognize that he had trolled by a prankster on Monday, suggesting that he hoped to pursue criminal charges against Blackman. "We found out who the guy is, and we're going to try to get him arrested," Lindell told Salon. "It's the same guy! We're investigating him!" When asked why police or the justice system would be interested in a prank caller, Lindell hung up.

Lindell's long and difficult Monday culminated with the on-air 30-minute conversation with this reporter, which left the sleep entrepreneur fuming. When Salon asked about Lindell's refusal to drop his unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, he referred to his two-hour "documentary" that recycles a number of discredited and sometimes contradictory claims. "I have put out 'Absolute Proof' — what part of that didn't you believe?" Lindell declared. "What part didn't you believe when you say 'unsubstantiated'? What do I gotta do? I've spent millions of dollars!" 

After that Lindell kept interrupting this reporter with a seemingly random stream of thoughts, at one point offering this reporter a job at FRANK if Salon were to publish an article entitled: "Why wouldn't Dominion show us their machines?" 

Later in the long night, Lindell turned his wrath to The Daily Beast, along with other journalists who have documented the pillow CEO's numerous false and misleading claims. "You guys are cowards," Lindell told viewers, rhetorically addressing Daily Beast reporters Asawin Suebsaeng, Justin Baragona and Adam Rawnsley.

Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab who studies extremism and far-right media, told Salon on Monday that he suspects people in conservative circles are willing to indulge Lindell's obsessions because of the financial backing he can provide. 

"Mike Lindell is being had by the people around him," Holt said. "All the various products and ventures Lindell has going on, whether it's a pseudo-documentary film or a social media platform, are very expensive endeavors. Someone is taking Lindell's money from him to produce this stuff. I've always gotten the sense that what Mike Lindell has to say goes as far as his ability to write checks" to fellow conservative pundits and influencers. "In the case of Dan Bongino or Diamond and Silk," Holt added, "it's worth considering if either of them has received financial support or sponsorships from Mike."

Lindell claimed during his Monday interview with Salon that his website had attracted more than 90 million unique visitors. Since it was broken for much of the day, that seems implausible. By 5 a.m. Tuesday, the Frank-a-thon had come to an end well short of the 48-hour mark, and Lindell's video channel was re-running programming from Monday's day of blunders.

You can watch the full interview Salon had with Lindell here: Part 1 and Part 2.

By Zachary Petrizzo

Zachary Petrizzo was an investigative reporter at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @ZTPetrizzo.

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