RICK SANTELLI | His '09 CNBC rant against mortgage bailouts for 'losers' ignited the Tea Party movement
As a staunch capitalist and social liberal, Rick Santelli might not agree with everything being said at Tea Party rallies or this weekend's Right Nation convention in Hoffman Estates, but he's proud of what he wrought."People ask me if I'm the father of the Tea Party movement," the CNBC commentator said outside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. "I was the spark ...that started it. If being the lightning rod that started the Tea Party is what's written on my tombstone, I'll be very happy."
But after his five-minute "rant" on CNBC 1½ years ago suggesting a tea party in Lake Michigan against government spending, Santelli let go and never exercised any control over the movement.
"The five-minute rant was the best five minutes of my life," Santelli says. "But beyond that, really four minutes in time, it's the Tea Party. My wife pointed out to me, 'You were there for the insemination, but you were not there to raise the child.' "
Does Santelli think he created a "Frankenstein's monster" that is toppling establishment Republicans such as Delaware Rep. Mike Castle in favor of Tea Party insurgents such as Christine O'Donnell?
"No, I don't think so, but then again, how it develops from here...," Santelli said without finishing the sentence. "So far, this has been a very proud moment for America. Over time, it will get more organized and police itself -- that's the way we hope it turns out."
There's little doubt the Tea Party groups of America, which operate pretty independently, got their start from Santelli's rant on Feb. 19, 2009.
"Rick Santelli went on, and he expressed frustration at the government," Fox News commentator Glenn Beck -- the headliner at Saturday night's Right Nation event -- said on his show Wednesday. "We're rewarding what he called bad behavior [with] the mortgage bailout. He said there should be a Tea Party. Wow, he said a mouthful, because that's where it started."
Santelli is an unabashed promoter of the free market and critic of government bailouts. He rants a lot on the air, he said. But the day he slammed President Obama's plan to bail out people who couldn't pay their mortgages, he got national attention.
"How 'bout this president and administration? Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet in a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages?" Santelli bellowed on the floor of the Merc. "At least buy cars, buy houses in foreclosure, and give them to people who might have a chance to prosper ...and carry the water, not drink the water."
Turning to the traders around him, he raised his hands and called out -- like Peter Finch in the movie "Network" -- "This is America. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors' mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills, raise your hand!"
The traders shouted their approval of his argument.
"President Obama, are you listening?" Santelli asked...