‘THIS IS AMERICA!’
When CNBC Created the Tea Party
The business network has become enemy number one for the Republican Party, but one of its star reporters is often credited with launching the Tea Party movement six years ago.
After Wednesday’s debacle of a debate, CNBC is now the most-hated cable network among conservatives. The fury has grown so intense that on Friday the Republican National Committee broke off its partnership with NBC News for an upcoming February debate hosted by the news titan.
Fun fact: Six years ago, CNBC started the Tea Party movement.
On February 24, 2009, while reporting for Squawk Box from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Rick Santelli (who was briefly featured during Wednesday’s debate) went on a dramatic rant against President Obama’s Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan, a stimulus package aimed at helping homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.
“The government is promoting bad behavior,” he said. “How about this, president and new administration, why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages.”
Santelli drew rapturous applause from the floor traders—the “silent majority,” as he described them—when he added that the government should “reward people that can carry the water instead of drink the water.”
A true showman in his element, Santelli then turned around to face his audience. “This is America!” he shouted. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” The traders erupted in boos.
The moment read like something straight out of the many Tea Party rallies seen during the 2010 election season.
“President Obama, are you listening?” Santelli boomed. “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July,” he continued. “All you capitalists show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.”
Further cementing what would become the Tea Party’s dominant motif, Santelli added, “I’ll tell you what: If you read our Founding Fathers—people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson—what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.”
And so history was written. Santelli’s call to verbal arms was echoed by conservative commentators and leading activist groups like FreedomWorks, who made the video their rallying cry.
Organizers shifted into gear and within 10 days of Santelli’s theatrics, the first official Tea Party rallies were held in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other cities. A year-and-a-half later, Tea Party candidates won 40 U.S. House elections, taking back power from the Democratic Party.
And conservatives have CNBC to thank.