How MAGA Media Dead-Enders Fought for Scraps in Trump’s Wake

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
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Riddled with post-election turmoil along with equal parts unwavering enthusiasm and a megadose of grievances, for some of the most ardently pro-Trump right-wing media stars the year 2021 proved quite eventful.

For many, with President Biden in the White House and Trump in retreat at his Mar-a-Lago golf club, it was a year of vicious infighting as the MAGA movement grappled with a sudden, dramatic shift in power.

It was the year Dominion Voting Systems filed massive, billion-dollar lawsuits against MAGA pundits and media outlets, forcing the biggest names in right-wing media to dial back their deferential coverage of Trump’s unhinged election lies. The result was, in part, a mostly lopsided battle between Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN over who could most cleverly court Trumpworld without veering into legally murky waters. It was also the year that conservative talking heads threatened to quit, squandered career opportunities, or seethed—publicly and privately—over their employers’ compliance with various vaccine rules.

Perhaps no 2020 election dead-ender was as essential to such feuds in 2021 as Mike Lindell. The MyPillow CEO had a massively unsuccessful year: From taking on Fox News, to trashing Newsmax and the Christan Salem Radio Network, he took the unusual tack of feuding with the right-wing media entities that had long boosted him, casting himself as an outlandish MAGA provocateur.

Initially, his fight started with Fox News, all stemming from the conservative titan not playing his conspiracy theory-laced ads promoting the in-person election fraud convention in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he hosted in mid-August. That mini-war ended with Lindell pulling his ads and yelling, “shame on Fox News.” (He would later try and fail several times before finally getting back into Fox’s better graces and resume his advertising of pillows and slippers on their airwaves—but with a touch of whining about “cancel culture.”)

Then in October, Lindell focused his ire on Chris Ruddy’s Newsmax, which earlier in the year bailed on an interview with the pillow mogul when he spewed election lies. “We had Newsmax call up, and they canceled all their ads on Frank Speech,” Lindell fumed one night on his show, describing the right-wing network as competition.

In light of his year of seemingly endless beefing, The Daily Beast called Lindell up to see what the pillow executive envisions playing out in 2022. He claimed it will be the year his baseless election-fraud complaint finally gets heard by the Supreme Court and a great wave of “hope” will overtake the masses.

Mike Lindell Blames a Vast GOP Conspiracy for His Supreme Court Failure

“We’re going to save our country. There will be no more machines. We will have fair voting systems,” he told The Daily Beast. “The First Amendment right of free speech [comes] back, and journalism will come back tenfold.”

Also, according to Lindell, 2022 will somehow bring the fall of the most-viewed cable news network on the planet, and top conservative rival. “Fox [News] and Newsmax will be gone,” Lindell outlandishly declared. Of course, it was all in service of promoting his own venture: “Frank Speech will replace them and [Steve Bannon’s podcast] WarRoom and places like that where they can actually speak out,” he added.

Former Trump administration officials also found themselves beefing this past year, with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows taking flak from all realms of MAGA world after his new book revealed the ex-president covered up testing positive for COVID-19 three days before his first debate with Biden. Trump and his allies railed against Meadows, and the ex-official was soon forced into a corner and agreed with Trump labeling his book “fake news.”

The fallout from Meadows’ book rollout debacle only grew more intense, as soon after bending the knee to his ex-boss, he ran into MAGA turmoil yet again: During one particularly contentious interview with far-right radio rising star Stew Peters, he was confronted over his alleged ties to “Chinese communists.”

Another right-wing figure who courted infighting throughout the year was Fox News host Dan Bongino. A relentlessly pro-Trump character with a seemingly intense and short temper, Bongino found some success in 2021 by casting himself as the “principled” Trumpworld character with a mainstream backing in both Fox and Cumulus Radio, where he replaced the late Rush Limbaugh on many stations.

However, in doing so, Bongino encountered newfound opposition from other right-wing forces, including his colleague, Alabama-based Cumulus radio host Dale Jackson, along with pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood.

In late October, Jackson began publicly and in no uncertain terms speaking out against his fellow radio star, essentially calling Bongino’s bluff when it came to daring their boss, Cumulus, to cancel his show over the company’s vaccine mandate. While pointing out Bongino’s “tough guy routine,” Jackson said Bongino’s attempt to kill a company-wide policy came far too late. “This would have been a better conversation publicly before that vaccine mandate went into place,” he said. From that point on, the two continued to clash in public, all while Cumulus remained silent.

And in early December, after the fallout from Tucker Carlson’s interview with Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse made its way through right-wing circles, Wood became enraged after conservative stars including Bongino and Carlson claimed the attorney took advantage of the teen vigilante and used a bail fundraising effort for his own gains.

Lin Wood’s Bonkers War on Bongino and Tucker Carlson Gets Even Uglier

The beefing took a particularly ugly and absurd turn earlier this month when the attorney branded the pair to be “deep state” plants, mocking Bongino’s personal appearance and releasing a screenshot of a purported email showing Carlson’s “buddy-buddy” relationship with Hunter Biden.

The QAnon-friendly lawyer also vowed to sue Fox News, Bongino, and Carlson for their “reckless disregard for truth or falsity.” Reached by The Daily Beast this past week, Wood insisted he still intends to take legal action against Carlson and Bongino, but that it would come on his own time. “Let them stew over it for a while,” the attorney said.

But the infighting among some of the MAGA movement’s more eccentric characters didn’t end there.

Veteran GOP operative and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone spent much of 2021 taking his fire and fury to plenty of fellow Trumpworld characters—from Mike Pompeo to Ron DeSantis—while renewing a longtime feud with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Stone still wants to “debate” Bannon, which is yet to be scheduled, and there remains little hope such a meeting will occur as in recent weeks Stone has accused Bannon of having been the person to “give the order” to breach the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riots.

‘Murder Plot’ Claims, a Dog Bite, and Roger Stone: Inside Florida’s Craziest Race

This year, a homburg hat-loving Stone found himself at the center of a twisted saga engulfing a key South Florida congressional race. The operative and his allies have attempted to destroy the prospects of Trump-backed candidate Anna Paulina Luna, with bizarre squabbles over a dog bite and allegations of a “murder plot.” The battle between Stone’s posse and Luna hasn’t slowed, as operatives loosely connected to the trickster continue to show up at the Republican’s campaign functions to film and aggressively pepper her with allegations of having worked at a strip club or falsified a voter registration.

And the always eager to fight, fish-oil-hawking conservative radio host Sebastian Gorka found himself privy to some petty right-wing squabbles this year.

While he didn’t go to war with street parking etiquette this year, he did find himself locking horns with a continuous stream of prank callers and QAnon super fan Bill Mitchell.

Amid the war of words, alleged secret doxing threats, and a bountiful helping of legal threats, Gorka cast Mitchell as a fervent QAnon adherent—a factual and accurate statement—and the ostensible former allies in the fight against “The Swamp” found themselves sour on each other. And Gorka made it abundantly clear in 2021 that he is sick and tired of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory that has come to dominate parts of the MAGA movement.

While 2021 is in the rearview mirror, all feuding elements of right-wing media seem united in hope that Trump will find himself back into power soon, with at least one dead-ender convinced it could occur ahead of the 2024 election.

“People are out canvassing,” Lindell insisted to The Daily Beast, loudly and proudly declaring Trump could be reinstated as president while merely getting a haircut on a Sunday morning. “This is real!”

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