Trump voters say they will not miss Bannon

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON • Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon's firing has been met with a collective shrug by some of US President Donald Trump's most committed supporters, who argue the controversial nationalist became an obstacle to the administration's agenda.

In interviews in multiple cities at the weekend, Americans who voted for Mr Trump said Mr Bannon's departure last Friday was the removal of an unnecessary distraction for the presidency, while others saw his role as largely inconsequential and possibly overblown.

Many expected Mr Trump to stay the course without him.

"Bannon was becoming too big of a story and taking the spotlight from President Trump," Mr Bob Janda, a 67-year-old small-business owner, said in a bar in Chicago. "When that happens, your days are numbered. I think Trump will be fine."

Mr Bannon, 63, played a key role in some of Mr Trump's most contentious policy moves, including the travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority nations, departure from the Paris climate accord and rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Mr Bannon's exit gives Mr Trump a chance to distance himself from "fringe" politics, said Mr Mike Corbitt, a machinist from Florida's West Palm Beach.

"He (Trump) needs to be more centre-right because the far right and the far left is not where America is," Mr Corbitt, 48, said at a Fort Lauderdale bar.

"Steve Bannon was great for getting Trump elected, but now the President needs someone who can get his policies enacted."

Breitbart News plans to speed up efforts to expand globally after Mr Bannon, its former executive chairman, returned to the conservative media outlet.

During a weekly radio show last Saturday on SiriusXM, Breitbart Washington editor Matt Boyle likened Mr Bannon's return to that of a captain coming back to a pirate ship.

The outlet plans "much more aggressive reporting" and putting "establishment Republicans" on notice, Mr Boyle said, according to Politico.

Mr Trump weighed in on Mr Bannon's return to the media world. "Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews... maybe even better than ever before," the President tweeted last Saturday. "Fake News needs the competition!"

Last Saturday, Axios reported that friends of Mr Bannon, whom it did not name, are speculating that he may start a TV network or an online streaming news service.

According to a person close to Mr Bannon, he had an hours-long meeting last Wednesday with conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies and a major financial supporter of both Mr Trump and Mr Bannon's efforts.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Trump voters say they will not miss Bannon'. Print Edition | Subscribe