Steve Bannon, AmericaFest Attack Nikki Haley for Challenging Trump

steve bannon america fest

The MAGA offensive against Donald Trump challenger Nikki Haley took a profane twist at AmericaFest, the annual political convention hosted by the Christian nationalist group Turning Point USA, billed as “the biggest freedom party of the year!” 

Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon, in a speech to the all-ages crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center, compared the former South Carolina governor and Trump U.N. ambassador to “Lucifer.” And his warning that there will be establishment pressure to make Haley Trump’s running mate spurred the crowd to chant, “Fuck Her! Fuck Her!”

The vitriol of Bannon’s speech, and the angry crowd reaction, underscores how the MAGA movement now identifies Haley as Trump’s most serious opponent in the GOP primary, providing yet another marker of her surge at the expense of fading Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (A pro-Trump super PAC has also hit Haley with attack ads in New Hampshire.)

In his speech, Bannon blasted “weak” and “devious” RNC “fat cats” whom he claimed have been using the GOP presidential debates to raise Haley’s profile. “Nikki Haley’s not gonna beat Trump,” Bannon insisted. “But she is gonna consolidate that ‘Never Trump’ vote. And mark my words. They’re gonna make a big move on: ‘Nikki’s got to be the vice president.’” 

As he said these words, Bannon was interrupted by a roar of boos from the audience. “You don’t love Nikki? Neoliberal, neocon Nikki?” Bannon said, egging on the crowd. “You’re not fans of Nicki as VP? … We’re gonna have to stop that!”  

The “War Room” host then levied a biblical broadside against Haley: “She’s ambitious as Lucifer,” Bannon said, warning that Haley would betray the MAGA masses as Trump’s veep. “That viper,” he said. “That’d be worse than Judas Pence in the West Wing,” Bannon added — alluding to former Vice President Mike Pence, whom MAGAdonians blame for betraying Trump by certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. The Christian conservative crowd then broke into the spontaneous foul-mouth chant. Holding out his mic to amplify the “Fuck her!” from the audience, Bannon remarked: “Oh my Lord! This is not PG rated. Lord have mercy!”

AmericaFest was a four-day extravaganza, sponsored by many far-right Christian institutions like Hillsdale College and Liberty University. Bannon delivered his speech Sunday night. The party wrapped up Tuesday, with the release of a straw poll revealing the MAGA crowd’s presidential preferences. Of those assembled, 83 percent backed Trump; Haley scored 1 percent — trailing undecided. The vice presidential preference in the poll split between former Fox News host Tucker Carlson at 35 percent, and Vivek Ramaswamy at 26 percent. (Consistent with the chanting, Haley registered just 2 percent.)

Turning Point USA is a far-right group that originally focused on spreading economic conservatism on American college campuses. It has morphed into a broader, far-right political powerhouse, which pushes a Christian nationalist agenda and aggressively engages in the culture wars, or what it terms the fight to “restore traditional American values.” TPUSA is a registered non-profit, with a dark-money arm known as Turning Point Action. As these organizations have gotten larger and more influential, founder Charlie Kirk has come under scrutiny for the growth of his personal wealth, which includes multiple, million-dollar properties. 

AmericaFest opened under a cloud of recent hateful rhetoric from its headline speakers. And the event’s speeches, indeed, were a motley mess of extremism. Comedian Roseanne Barr kicked off the convention with a bizarre rant about an alleged conspiracy — among what she described as “Stalinist! Communists! … A huge helping of Nazi fascist thrown in, plus… the caliphate” — to wipe Christian nations from the Earth. 

TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk emceed much of the confab. In an exchange with ex-Minnesota Rep. and former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, Kirk gave voice to white nationalist rhetoric. He insisted that Minneapolis is “the perfect example of the Great Replacement,” a racist conspiracy theory that holds that white Americans are purposefully being replaced by minority newcomers at the direction of a nefarious cabal of elites. Kirk elaborated that Minneapolis is “a city that was safe and peaceful — and then you bring in a bunch of third-worlders that don’t share our values… and it gets destroyed.” Leaving no doubt, Kirk emphasized he was referring to the “importation of Muslims into our country.”

Carlson, in an on-stage roundtable with podcaster Tim Pool, took up similar themes, discussing the horror of whites becoming a U.S. minority. “By their definition, being a minority is a threat to your life in this country — and they’re celebrating a group becoming a minority,” Carlson said of Democrats. “We’re all too embarrassed to say so, but that’s genocidal language!”

Bannon used his speech to deliver a bellicose message to the TPUSA crowd — including constant invocations of the Revolutionary War, and the type of rhetoric that marked the runup to Jan. 6, 2021. Bannon called the AmericaFest faithful an “army of the awakened.” He invoked the recent 250th anniversary of the Tea Party in Boston Harbor, telling the “fighters” in the crowd: “You’re a vanguard of a populist, nationalist movement we have not seen in this nation since 1773.”

Bannon underscored that the time lapse between the Boston Tea Party and the outbreak of revolutionary violence was just “16 months, almost to the day.” The founding fathers, he said, “knew the war was coming — just like we know the war’s coming.”

“Are you ready for that?” Bannon asked: “Are you gonna let ‘em take your country? Are you going to do everything in your power — and I mean, everything in your earthly power — to stop that?” Continuing to compare the crowd to the colonists he insisted: “Your fight’s the same, exact fight.”


Blasting the nation’s “traitors” and the “dangerous vermin” in the media, Bannon told the religious TPUSA audience that their foes are “demons” who “hate you for your beliefs.” He continued: “This is not a disagreement. They don’t disagree with you. They hate you. They hate your values. They hate what you stand for.”

To close, Bannon again invoked the fights that kicked off the Revolutionary War, but took a small step back from the insurrectionist edge — by pointing to Election Day as the start of his desired upheaval. “We have our Concord and Lexington,” he declared, “on the fifth of November of 2024.”

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