Mike Lindell likely envisioned Monday as a groundbreaking news day for him. Not only was he set to launch his new “free speech” social-media website, but he was also going to announce his $1.6-billion countersuit against voting-software company Dominion.
Instead, most of the attention the MyPillow CEO received focused on how he was duped on-air by a prank caller into thinking his hero Donald Trump was calling him, resulting not only in some unintentional comedy but in Lindell lashing out at various Daily Beast writers on-air and Jimmy Kimmel dedicating part of his late-night monologue to mocking him.
The prankster behind that stunt—which was part of a daylong crank-caller siege on Lindell’s online telethon launch of his site Frank Speech—told The Daily Beast on Tuesday how easy it was to trick the pillow magnate and his co-hosts into not only believing he was Trump but also a number of other people, including Lindell’s son and a Wall Street Journal reporter.
Ron Blackman, whose legal name is James Winder, has been prank-calling businesses and celebrities for years, broadcasting them online via his podcast titled The Macron Show. As he told The Daily Beast, after he’s able to find a phone number and other relevant information online, he uses techniques such as social engineering and caller-ID spoofing to gain a target’s trust and make them more susceptible to the prank.
While his calls in the past have largely been one-on-one, Lindell’s telethon offered Blackman a prime opportunity to prank a public figure while they were broadcasting live to a large audience. Blackman prepared for pranking the MyPillow boss for weeks, he said, and the initial plan was to register a bunch of new user names on Frank Speech and use them to mock the pro-Trump pillow salesman during his 48-hour kickoff event, titled “Frank-a-thon.” Despite the hotly anticipated launch, the site struggled right off the bat on Monday, with many users unable to log on and set up their profiles.
Not only was Lindell easy to dupe, Blackman said, but the prank calls were made especially easier thanks to the MyPillow CEO’s co-host Brannon Howse, a fellow election conspiracist and right-wing talker.
“That dude is dumber than a bag of rocks,” Blackman said of Howse. “He’s the reason I got to Lindell so easily yesterday.”
“At the start of the stream, I noticed Lindell and Howse were sitting at the desk, both of them with their own iPhones in front of them,” he explained. “I was trying to screengrab anything that came up when they lit up and I was observing everything. Figured I needed to get at least one of those numbers and I could interrupt the show by just making them ring.”
According to Blackman, it ultimately didn’t require much effort to find Howse’s personal cell number. Why? Because the Lindell sidekick’s digits were listed for all to see on his public Facebook page.
And so, for his first prank, Blackman called Howse’s phone, disguising his caller ID to show the Wall Street Journal’s main number, and watched as Howse handed his phone to an assistant upon Blackman’s request.
“I just told her [the assistant] to give me Mike’s number, and she did it without thinking,” the podcaster revealed. “And it proves 100 percent that he didn’t even have a plan for his big live stream. He was totally winging it. Sitting there with his iPhone on his desk praying that someone good would call in to support him.”
Blackman said that he got through about a dozen times over the course of the live stream, impersonating the Journal reporter at one point and then having another person call and act as Lindell’s son, as they had figured a way to spoof his number as well.
“At one point we called him from his kid’s cellphone and told him an angry crowd has gathered outside his house, that’s why he left the studio for an hour… and came back sweating,” Blackman noted. (Lindell, upon returning, would then spend much of the rest of the broadcast raging at The Daily Beast for reporting on one of the prank calls.)
As for the vaunted Trump call, Blackman said that he spoofed a number from Mar-a-Lago in order to appear to be the ex-president. Lindell was already on-edge from the previous pranks at that point—Lindell would claim he was “hacked”—and so, Blackman recalled, he would only have a brief window of time to execute the crank call.
“I knew for certain that I’d have about one second to say what I wanted before Lindell panicked and hung up,” the prankster explained. “I used a soundboard of Donald Trump saying ‘Hello everyone’ to reel him in and then I yelled out my website name, so that at least everyone hearing it would know where to find me, so that we got to hijack all his effort and time and use it to promote a prank call show instead of his website.”
Blackman added: “I knew this would annoy him. I could have continued to use the Donald Trump soundboard and made it get silly, but each sound clip sounds slightly different and he would have hung up before getting to any kind of punchline. I wanted to reel him in good and then give him a huge shock, which I think worked.”