One of the most representative high-profile dregs of the Donald Trump era got exactly what he was looking for on Wednesday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. That’s because pillow pitchman (currently without retail representation), Republican piggy bank, and staunchly buffoonish supporter of every election conspiracy theory in the land Mike Lindell and host Kimmel both decided that giving some 18 minutes of air/YouTube time to their—let’s call it—“debate” about Donald Trump’s legacy (and the nonexistent election fraud that sent the former president back to his more suitable role as Florida golf resort greeter) was a good idea. It went about as well as could be expected.
Kimmel, who’s had a Mike Lindell impersonator (uncanny Bernie Sanders impersonator and comic James Adomian) aping the Minnesota-based entrepreneur and farcically inept Twitter rival on his show for weeks, noted to his guest, “A lot of people didn’t want you to come on this show.” Kimmel cited both liberals and conservatives alike among those urging both parties to not do this thing that they did. To which list one might add, “those concerned that a clearly deluded kook be given network airtime,” and “just anyone utterly exhausted that bumbling conspiracy theorists have entered into the mainstream political discourse.” At any rate, Jimmy Kimmel, for all his late-career political awakening, was not really the person to puncture Lindell’s precarious soap bubble of garrulously held delusion, as it turns out.
Kimmel adopted a chummy, “I’m just worried about you” tone, bringing up his guest’s past battles with serious addiction and Lindell’s obvious naiveté when it comes to, well, everything except pillows, as he attempted to urge Lindell toward some version of reality. Producing a big red game show buzzer for his desk in deference to ABC legal, Kimmel smilingly prodded Lindell over the Trump loyalist and documentarian’s proximity to some genuinely ugly stuff, all of which Lindell hand-waved away as conveniently above his CEO pay grade. That Oval Office memo clearly advising martial law as part of Trump’s plan to steal the 2020 election? “Oh, that’s not mine,” Lindell explained, blaming his position as what Kimmel called “paper mule” on some darned lawyers. That time he gave $50,000 to other noted Trump sycophant, QAnon-loving lawyer Lin Wood, to bail out white supremacist double-murderer Kyle Rittenhouse? Darn lawyers again, as Lindell gabbled out something about Wood’s “foundation” taking his cash and using it on behalf of the Kenosha killer without his knowledge. (Kimmel got Lindell to admit that he never asked for his money back, if he, indeed, was so against that sort of thing.) Lindell also complained about being labeled a racist just for supporting Donald Trump. Who is a racist.
Anyone looking for a decisive gotcha moment (from either the “rigged election!” or “living in actual reality” side) was disappointed, as Kimmel essentially allowed Lindell (in studio despite bragging about not being vaccinated against COVID) to repeat his beyond-debunked nonsense, only offering up Kimmel’s signature brand of bro-smirky jabs as counter-argument. And while it might have been unseemly should Lindell have been unwise enough to submit to an interview with someone with more of a taste for late-night blood like John Oliver or Stephen Colbert, this appearance did nothing to cover either Lindell or Kimmel with dialectical glory. Kimmel danced between chary mockery of Lindell’s past substance abuse problems, and genuine concern that the in-over-his-head pillow magnate is going to “be out dressed as Spider-Man on Hollywood Boulevard at the end of this.” Meanwhile, Lindell got to use ABC’s time to spout the sort of libelous nonsense that’s seen him sued for $1.6 billion. (Lindell did mention suit-bringers Dominion again, but, don’t worry, Lindell claims his pal Alan Dershowitz says he’s totally fine.)
So here we are, 100 days after President Joe Biden was rightfully and legally sworn in after what Kimmel vainly tried to get Lindell to admit was “the most secure election in history,” with a late-night host and a pillow salesman sloppily re-litigating the ongoing right-wing coup for the yucks. (Adomian came out as his disheveled and bloodied Lindell, to the actual Lindell’s delighted amusement.) Kimmel told Lindell, “I believe that you are sincere. I also believe that there’s something going on from the crack,” and joked about neophyte filmmaker Lindell’s recent Razzie awards. Lindell ranted about being in hiding (but not because of paranoia), those nefarious Chinese hackers, and Facebook fact-checker and “fake news” journalist Alan Duke, who Lindell claimed “decides what’s true or not in this country.” Everyone had a big, pally laugh at Adomian’s antics. Kimmel got his ratings. Lindell got his exposure. “I think it’s important that we talk to each other,” Kimmel said at the outset, and maybe he’s right. At least he didn’t ruffle Lindell’s hair.