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Mike Lindell should accept he's wrong about voter fraud, Alabama Republican tells Insider. If not, 'most people would say, "You're an idiot."'

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Mike Lindell standing behind a red barricade at a Trump rally.
Founder and CEO of My Pillow, conservative political activist and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell (C) listens to former U.S. President Donald Trump addresses supporters during a "Save America" rally at York Family Farms on August 21, 2021 in Cullman, Alabama. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill spoke to Insider about his meeting with Mike Lindell.

  • Lindell has claimed, without evidence, that 100,000 votes were "flipped" in Alabama.

  • The two met at a Trump rally in August, Merrill said.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

If Mike Lindell is a "reasonable, thinking person," there's still a chance he could be talked down from his claim that there was systemic voter fraud even in a state as deep-red as Alabama. And if he's not? Like Joe McCarthy, the senator who spent the 1950s on a witch hunt for communists, the pillow magnate could end up being seen as "just perpetuating a myth he had created for self-promotion."

That's according to John Merrill, a former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party who since 2015 has served as the state's top elections official. He spoke to Insider after meeting with Lindell - and after the CEO of MyPillow, born again as a crusader against the results of the 2020 election, alleged in a video on his website that some 100,000 ballots were "flipped" in a state that former President Donald Trump carried with 62% of the vote.

On September 17, Alabama's Secretary of State met with Lindell to discuss what his office described as "several topics that were of concern to Mr. Lindell and other citizens." That meeting took place after the two connected at a Trump rally in August, and after Lindell - who has prophesied that the ex-president will be reinstated before the end of the year - paid $30,000 to obtain a copy of the state's voter list.

"Mr. Lindell was claiming that Alabama had votes changed more than five or six weeks ago, which is what started the entire conversation," Merrill said. There, for three-and-a-half hours, Lindell and his associates shared what they presented as evidence that votes were changed, from Trump to President Joe Biden, on the day of the election.

"He showed us a report about when the votes were 'flipped,'" he said. But the times when the alleged incidents occurred didn't make any sense. "I'm like, 'How did that happen when the polls were not even open?' And it was like that on a number of different things. They didn't really have a response to that."

They didn't really have a response to evidence that the machines could not have been "hacked," either, as Lindell has claimed they were (state and national cybersecurity officials, including members of the Trump administration, described the 2020 election "as the most secure in American history").

In a video posted to his website after the meeting, Lindell praised Merrill's leadership and acknowledged his statement that voting machines in Alabama are never connected to the internet - that they don't even have modems. But he was undeterred.

"We're going to find that hole," Lindell said. "I know we'll find something in the machines."

This was of course a predictable outcome - and a good reason, critics say, not to have given a notorious crank the time of day.

Screen capture of a tweet.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill shared a story on Wednesday that identified Mike Lindell as a "conspiracy theorist." Screenshot/Twitter

Legitimizing or challenging a conspiracy theorist?

"It's pathetic and so obvious that Merrill is sucking up to Trump," Wade F. Perry, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, told Insider. "It's all political theater," he said, "and it's stupid."

Merrill insists he has not come to any conclusion about Lindell himself, and would indeed meet with him again. This, despite sharing a news story on his personal Twitter account that identified him as a "conspiracy theorist." Like it or not, Merrill argued, "he does have a pulpit." It's important to rebut popular claims, even - perhaps, especially - if they come from a false prophet. And the man himself could come around, right?

"I know he's a multimillionaire and he didn't get to become a multimillionaire by being crazy and doing stupid things all the time," Merrill argued.

"A logical, reasonable-thinking person is going to say, 'I must be wrong in what I'm looking at.' And if you can't be moved from that position, then you are not very intelligent," Merrill said. "And most people would say, 'You're an idiot.'"

Time will certainly tell. In the 1950s, a Republican lawmaker, Margaret Chase Smith, spoke publicly against the "irresponsible sensationalism" of one Joe McCarthy, another member of the GOP.

"Then he went the way of the buffalo, that's what happened to him," Merrill said. "And if this happens with Mr. Lindell, then so be it. It'll be a sad day for him, but it'll be a great day for the country."

From Maricopa County, Arizona, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, quite a few Republicans - the ones who actually administer elections - who have been willing to question the decency of others within their party pushing the lie that the 2020 election was decided not by American voters but by Chinese communists.

The problem is that the head of that party, the man who lost in November, is the leading purveyor of these falsehoods. So long as Donald Trump has an unchallenged grip over the GOP, including support from many of these same state and local officials; keeps doubling down on outlandish excuses for his loss; and continues directing his followers to attack those who challenge his claims, the likes of Mike Lindell will continue to have a congregation.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider