Count Steve Bannon among the supporters of former President Donald Trump who are baffled that the former president billed the rollout of superhero-themed digital trading cards as a “major announcement” on the same day he released his plan to combat the censorship of free speech.
Mr. Bannon, a former chief Trump White House adviser, said Mr. Trump‘s hyped-up release and sale of the $99 digital cards overshadowed the far more important release of his plan to take on the “left-wing censorship machine.”
“I can’t do this anymore,” Mr. Bannon said on his “War Room” podcast after watching part of the trading card rollout video with fellow Trump supporters Sebastian Gorka and Steve Cortes — both former assistants to Mr. Trump.
Mr. Bannon said Mr. Trump is “one of the greatest presidents in history,” but said the people responsible for having the ex-president put out the digital trading cards on the same day he put out the biggest policy announcement of his fledging 2024 campaign “ought to be fired today.”
“You don’t have any harder [Trump backers] than Cortes, Bannon, and Seb Gorka and we are getting blown up all day on this,” he said.Mr. Trump on Wednesday took to social media to tease a “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT,” saying “AMERICA NEEDS A SUPERHERO.”
On Thursday, he followed up.
“MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT! My official Donald Trump Digital Trading Card collection is here!” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, dropped a separate video Thursday in which he promised if elected in 2024 to “shatter the leftwing censorship machine” and “reclaim” the First Amendment guarantee of free speech for all Americans.
Mr. Trump spelled out his plan to stop the federal government from banning lawful speech, promised to fire federal employees who have tried to censor “lawful speech” and vowed to block federal funds from going to universities that wrongfully curtail speech.
It is the first major policy-related speech of the presidential campaign he launched last month.
Conservatives and right-wing figures celebrated the proposal while lamenting that the trading cards received the vast majority of the coverage on social media.
Mr. Gorka said the digital cards “never should have happened.”
“It is fun, it is hyperbolic, but who wrote that pitch should be fired,” Mr. Gorka said. “We don’t have time to waste. If you want to do this kind of stuff, you know have a peon do it, OK. Get somebody who is recognized in the MAGA world to put their face to this thing and do it.”
“But the president should not be involved with this,” he said.
Mr. Cortes said the trading cards are taking attention away from the role that the FBI and Department of Justice played in trying to take down Mr. Trump.
“Donald Trump should not be doing this kind of video,” he said. “The video shows a lack of discipline and focus, and to take on the intelligence community is going to require unbelievable steely discipline and focus.”
Mr. Cortes said Mr. Trump also bears some responsibility.
“It is his campaign, it is his operation, he has to get focused,” he said.
• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this story.