The MyPillow guy made a movie of lies about the election. These corporations beamed it into millions of homes.
Mike Lindell, the founder and CEO of MyPillow, created a two-hour movie that uses discredited conspiracy theories to claim that Trump was the real winner of the 2020 election. These are the same lies that motivated a mob to attack the United States Capitol on January 6 — a riot that left five people dead. Nevertheless, on Friday, several major corporations broadcast Lindell's fever dream into millions of American homes.
Lindell purchased airtime for the film, called "Absolute Proof," on One American News (OAN), a far-right network that appeals to viewers who believe Fox News is too liberal. According to OANpromos, "Absolute Proof" aired thirteen times from February 5 to 8 — encompassing 26 hours of OAN's programming over four days.
While Lindell's film was technically a paid ad, OAN promoted it as a news program. In a tweet, OAN billed it as an "exclusive report" about "[g]rowing evidence of election fraud reveal[ing] that the presidency of the United States has been stolen from the American people."
Prior to each airing, however, OAN ran an extensive disclaimer warning viewers that "the statements and claims expressed in this program are presented at this time as opinions only and are not intended to be taken or interpreted by the viewer as established facts." It says Lindell is "solely and exclusively" responsible for the contents of the film. Any viewer who tuned in after the first few moments of the broadcast, however, would not be aware Lindell's film was paid programming.
Dominion, a voting machine company, filed lawsuits against lawyers Sydney Powell and Rudy Guiliani for their baseless assertions that Dominion was part of a conspiracy to steal the election from Trump. Each lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion in damages. Dominion "also sent letters warning of impending litigation to conservative news outlets," including OAN.
Lindell's film repeats these lies about Dominion. For example, lawyer Matt DePerno claims that files "were deleted from the Dominion system in Antrim County. We know that for a fact." Lindell responds, "wow." Although a clerical error briefly showed a landslide for Biden in the county, it was corrected. There is absolutely no evidence of any vote manipulation in the county and the results were confirmed by a hand-recount of the votes.
At another point, Lindell claims Dominion voting machines "were used to steal our elections by other countries, including China." This is not true. The Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency called the presidential election "the most secure in American history," adding there is "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."
Lindell's claims about voting machines were part of a litany of disinformation in the film. Other false claims include:
Lindell says 4,296 Georgia voters "registered to vote in another state after their Georgia registration date." (False.)
Lindell claims there were "17,000 dead voters in Michigan" (False.)
A Michigan IT worker claims she saw people "re-scanning dozens of ballots [for Biden] and counting them twice." (False.)
All of these false claims, however, were broadcast into tens of millions of American homes. OAN is carried on major premium television providers including AT&T's DirectTV, UVerse, and AT&T TV services (17.1 million subscribers) and Verizon's FIOS (3.9 million subscribers).
OAN is also carried by GCI, a cable provider that reaches more than 125,000 homes in Alaska. GCI is owned by Qurate Retail Group, the parent company of QVC. Roku, a streaming service that reaches tens of millions of households, offers OAN for sale as an add-on service.
In response to a request for comment, AT&T provided the following statement to Popular Information:
When it comes to the channels we carry for customers, we do not exercise control over their editorial content. We review our contract terms continually and, in the meantime, if customers have questions about a provider’s content, they should contact the individual channel provider.
Verizon, GCI, and Roku did not respond.
AT&T and Verizon's conflicting messages
Both AT&T and Verizon have announced they are suspending contributions to the 147 members of Congress who tried to overturn the presidential election. Verizon committed to maintaining the suspension through 2021 while AT&T's commitment does not have a specific end date. Presumably, AT&T and Verizon took action because these Republican members of Congress helped set the stage for the January 6 riot by validating the lie that the election was stolen.
But now, through their TV services, AT&T and Verizon are spreading these same lies — potentially to millions of people.
Lindell played a key role in the events of January 6, speaking at the rally on the Ellipse that preceded the riot. In December, he sponsored a two-week bus tour that promoted the idea that the election was stolen. The day before the riot, he offered discounts on his pillows with the code "FightForTrump."
After January 6, Lindell called the depictions of the riot a "joke." He said that the event was "just peaceful protest," suggesting that those who broke into the Capitol were plants. "There was probably some undercover Antifa that dressed as Trump people and did some damage to windows and got in there," Lindell said.
On January 15, Lindell was photographed walking into the White House for a meeting with Trump. He was photographed holding a document that said: "martial law if necessary." Lindell denied that the papers he was carrying mentioned martial law.
Lindell's reckless conduct resulted in him being permanently banned from Twitter on January 26 for repeatedly spreading misinformation about the election. Twitter later banned the MyPillow account because Lindell was using it to evade his personal ban.
But, through their continued relationship with OAN, Verizon, AT&T, Roku, and others continue to give Lindell a massive platform to broadcast dangerous lies.
OAN's record of passing off conspiracy theories as news
OAN bills itself as a news network but regularly indulges in wild conspiracy theories.
In March, OAN's chief White House Correspondent, Chanel Rion, suggested that COVID "may have originated in a North Carolina laboratory." Rion cited Greg Rubini, a conspiracy theorist who claimed COVID "was GENETICALLY ENGINEERED as a Bio-Weapon at the Univ. of North Carolina BSL-3 Lab." There is no evidence for any of these theories. YouTube temporarily suspended OAN for spreading COVID misinformation.
OAN described QAnon, the conspiracy theory that Democrats are part of a Satanic cult operating a child sex ring, as "the new mainstream." OAN host Kristian Rouz said that QAnon "is becoming a widely accepted system of beliefs" and is "immensely popular." She described efforts to ban QAnon adherents from social media sites as the "deep state… fighting back." Rion said that Q, the fictional character sending coded messages about the child sex ring, was "anonymous for a reason" and "people need to respect that."
After Trump lost the election, OAN declared that Trump won and Democrats were just delaying the results in an effort to steal it. "Donald Trump won a second term last night. Democrats are tossing Republican ballots, harvesting fake ballots, and delaying the results to create confusion," host Christina Bobb said.
But none of this has caused major corporations to rethink their association with OAN. Roku describes OAN as "a credible source for national and international news." The network claims to be "available in about 35 million U.S. TV homes." At one point, OAN's deal with AT&T was "scheduled to expire in early 2021." But it's unclear if that is still the case.
AT&T and Verizon aren't just giving OAN a massive platform. They are providing critical funding for the operation. According to OAN, TV providers pay OAN "a monthly fee of about 15 cents per subscriber." For AT&T that would amount to more than $3 million per year.