‘Proud Christian nationalist’ Steve Bannon headlines TX state House candidate’s rally

Former top political adviser for former President Donald Trump Steve Bannon and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Sunday evening had top billing at a rally for a Texas state representative candidate in Bartonville.

Around 500 people packed into barbecue and steak restaurant Marty B’s to see Bannon, Paxton and others express their support for Mitch Little. The event was sponsored by Patriot Mobile, which calls itself a Christian cell phone service provider.

The crowd cheered heartily when Bannon criticized a recently published book about the Christian nationalist movement and said, “I’m a Christian nationalist and I’m a proud Christian nationalist.”

Little is challenging Republican incumbent Kronda Thimesch, who he and supporters oppose for her vote last May to impeach Paxton, who was acquitted by the state Senate in September. Paxton was accused of abusing his office to benefit real estate investor Nate Paul and retaliating against former employees who reported him to law enforcement.

Bannon is set to stand trial in New York in May for his involvement in an alleged scheme to defraud donors to We Build the Wall, an organization that said it would use the money to build sections of border wall on private land on the U.S.-Mexico border.

He was indicted on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, among others, but was pardoned by former President Trump on his last day in office. Prosecutors said that We Build the Wall constructed small sections of border wall, but that Bannon and others used large amounts of donations to fund their lavish lifestyles.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks after Steve Bannon at Mitch Little’s campaign rally on Sunday evening. CODY COPELAND/
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks after Steve Bannon at Mitch Little’s campaign rally on Sunday evening. CODY COPELAND/

The case was later taken up by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Presidential pardons do not apply to state charges. Bannon is accused of stealing more than $1.5 million in donations.

We Build the Wall co-founder Brian Kolfage and financier Andrew Badolato did not receive pardons. They both pleaded guilty to defrauding donors hundreds of thousands of dollars in April 2022. They were sentenced to four and three years in prison.

Bannon again elicited cheers from the crowd when he said that he “never realized that your Texas legislature is full of demons,” and expressed his support for Paxton.

“These establishment Republicans … they hate Trump, they hate MAGA, and they particularly hate Ken Paxton,” he said.

Following Bannon, Paxton also criticized establishment Republicans in the Texas legislature, saying, “They do what the Democrats want until you force them to do something different.”

Despite the enthusiasm Bannon received on stage, most attendees who spoke to the Star-Telegram before the event began said they did not know much about him or the charges against him.

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Phil Maloney, a precinct chair for the Denton County GOP. “I got too much other stuff going on locally.”

Three other attendees said they were unaware about Bannon and his legal troubles.

Little declined to comment, but his campaign manager Lisa Hencdrickson said, “I don’t know the issues that face Mr. Bannon, but I do know the issues that face the American people and the Texans and we expect justice from those that we elect.”

Waxahachie resident Christie Autrey takes a selfie with Steve Bannon after his speech. CODY COPELAND/
Waxahachie resident Christie Autrey takes a selfie with Steve Bannon after his speech. CODY COPELAND/

Waxahachie resident Christie Autrey, however, followed Bannon to his car after he spoke to snag a selfie with him as the last flames of the North Texas sunset burned orange in the background.

“I’m so crazy about you, Steve, you don’t even know,” she told him.

After he and his team drove away, Autrey described herself as a “groupie” of Bannon’s.

“I listen to him four hours a day and everything he says is like right out of my mouth,” she said in an interview. She called Bannon’s involvement with We Build the Wall “amazing” and said she backs “anything Trump has any idea of doing.”

Autrey said she does not believe the allegations against Bannon. “I think there’s a big scam going on,” she said. “I think they love to control people that are opposing them.”

The rally also included a performance by Natasha Owens, who performed her song “Trump Won,” which went viral in March 2023 and pushed singers like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus off the No. 1 spot on the iTunes chart.

Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted on murder charges stemming from his killing of two protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, was set to hold a book signing at the rally, but he did not make it. His name did not appear on a posting of the event published later.

Attendees were given a list of primary ballot candidates for Denton County compiled by Red Wave Texas, an organization that is “helping elect leaders with integrity,” according to its website.