To watch Fox News is to accumulate reasons not to sleep as you hear from “the MyPillow Guy,” Mike Lindell, about how you might sleep better. I watch a lot of Fox News. In the six years since Donald Trump announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, its programming has been his two-way mirror. During his single term in the White House, Fox News became America’s own state-sponsored news channel slash ongoing messy family reality TV show, as if Russia Today were staffed by the Osbournes. Fox’s now-dead ex-president advised the would-be president. Its hosts advise the sitting president, and they show up in the Oval Office. One of them dates his divorced adult son and quit her job at Fox to work on Trump’s reelection campaign. The others go on Fox News in their capacity as mouthpieces for the campaign or the White House, and they talk to the president directly through the feed they’re sure he’s watching on Fox News. Often, as he’s watching, he’s casting new members of his administration, who will no doubt one day secure contracts once again at Fox News on the basis of their status as former members of the Fox Newsiest administration. It’s why Larry Kudlow and John Bolton were hired. It’s where Sarah Huckabee Sanders ended up. The president used to flip between cable channels more often, going from CNN to MSNBC and back to Fox News after something on the other networks angered him, but as he grew more sensitive during his time in power, his interest in competing worldviews waned. He TiVos the entire day’s lineup of shows and then he watches, his thumb prepared to pause or rewind or fast-forward as his attention span demands. He watches live TV only during a crisis when there’s ongoing drama to sustain him, like the recent insurrection at the Capitol that he incited and then was entertained by for much of the day.
In between it all, there are the infomercials.
By the final October of the Trump presidency, I had been mindlessly absorbing ads for MyPillow for years when I had the idea to test it out myself. Lindell was just another character on the periphery of the Trump orbit, not so different from Jon Voight or one of the Duck Dynasty cast members. He was given some bullshit title with the Trump campaign in return for years of loyalty to the president, beginning with his endorsement of the then-candidate in August 2016. Lindell, who says he found God after struggling with a crack addiction and now appears in his commercials with a large crucifix hanging over the collar of his blue dress shirts, told students at Liberty University during a 2019 speech that he considered his first meeting with Trump “a divine appointment.” He then gifted the Evangelical school $600,000 worth of MyPillow products, on which, per campus behavioral guidelines, they were not to sin.
For much of the country, the Trump era brought new reasons to lie awake at night. For the first year of the presidency, I was so worried I’d miss something that I kept the volume on my phone all the way up while I slept and was often woken up by Trump sending bursts of tweets in the early hours of the morning. But it wouldn’t be fair to blame my sleep troubles on the president. I like the slowness and solitude of the night, and I’m always at war with my nocturnal impulses. Still, it would be nice to have the best sleep of my life, as advertised. And it would be nicer to be able to answer for myself at least one enduring mystery of the Trump presidency: Are those pillows any good?
They arrived flat and rolled up in a cardboard box with instructions for fluffing. Order No. 12454350: two standard/queen classic MyPillows, one firm and one medium, $59.98 each plus $19.95 for shipping and handling. Beneath the distinct MyPillow logo, with its cushiony bubble letters, and above a photo of Lindell himself floated the alluring promise: “Guaranteed The Most Comfortable Pillow You’ll Ever Own!” His arms stretched across his product in a loving embrace. A smile stretched across his face. I had to admit, he looked well rested.
According to Lindell, who promoted a “miracle” treatment for COVID-19 called oleandrin, the pillows can cure insomnia because of their “patented interlocking fill,” which “adjusts to your individual needs.” As instructed, I puffed up the MyPillows for 15 minutes in the dryer. They came out fluffier but still stiff, looking sort of like poster boards covered in the MyPillow logo. I replaced my normal pillows with them anyway and didn’t tell my boyfriend until he asked, while closing his eyes, why it felt like he was sleeping “on a bed of rocks.”
Look, this would be a better story if the pillows were good. That would be complicated, and maybe confronting such an inconvenient truth would yield some kind of worthwhile insight about the nature of man and how we can tolerate evil in exchange for comfort. I don’t know if it comes through, but that’s sort of what I’m going for here, generally, in my work as Washington correspondent for New York Magazine. I take no pleasure at all in reporting that these pillows are just as bad as you would assume they are.
It’s not just that they’re hard. They’re lumpy. Like piñatas filled with fist-size cotton balls and packing peanuts. I placed my MyPillow receipt and instruction manual on my desk, mostly as a reminder to eventually write this story, and for days I’d find myself walking over to stare at the paperwork to confirm that these really were MyPillows and not some kind of knockoff produced by a left-wing James O’Keefe–style troll (but that’s a free idea if anyone wants it).
By the second night, my boyfriend had apparently forgotten about our conversation of the night before. “What is this?” he said, poking at the pillow. “It’s like a sack of potatoes.”
But by the second week, the novelty had worn off, and he had grown less understanding of my experiment (which, unbeknownst to him, I had planned to extend over the course of one month). “No, we’re not doing this tonight!” he said, pointing at the MyPillow as if it were an enemy soldier. “It’s like we’re the Flintstones! Every single night I have to live like Fred Flintstone! And why?”
During a Judge Jeanine commercial break a few nights later, the very sight of Lindell inspired fury. “Oh my fucking God! Give me the remote,” he said. “I feel like that guy has lowered the quality of my life so much.” Muttering to himself, he added, “That guy should be arrested.” (At the rate Lindell is going, he may be! On Monday, Dominion Voting Systems officials threatened to sue Lindell for spreading “misinformation” about the integrity of the election that Trump lost.)
A few weeks ago, as Trump tried in vain to hold on to power with Lindell’s encouragement, I was staring at my phone when my boyfriend asked, “Do you notice how comfortable you are?” I hadn’t, since following the events of the end of the Trump presidency has made me basically just a floating consciousness living in a screen with no connection to my surroundings, like the operating system in the movie Her. “Look over there,” he said. Two MyPillows had been discarded on the floor, nine years and 11 months before the end of their ten-year warranty. He smiled a very self-satisfied smile, just like Mike Lindell’s. As he fell asleep, he whispered (I swear — I took time-stamped notes), “Everything is better without MyPillow.”
“That’s my kicker,” I said.
“That’s what it feels like to sleep with a MyPillow,” he said, “like someone’s kicking you.”
Perhaps Trump sleeps so little not because he’s wired from the caffeine in his Diet Cokes, or because he’s being eaten alive by his conscience, or because his top advisers, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Lindell, are urging him to stage a military coup on Wednesday to prevent Joe Biden from being inaugurated as president, but because he’s resting his head on a MyPillow.