While Fox News has celebrated the Taxpayer Tea Party rallies and MSNBC has denigrated them, the impetus of the movement – CNBC and specifically Rick Santelli, its inspiration – had been conspicuously quiet about it.
But on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” April 15, co-host Joe Kernen asked Santelli what he thought of being a “cultural phenomenon.” That was the same show Santelli famously called out President Barack Obama for the unfairness of his housing bailout proposal on Feb. 19.
“A lot of articles about these tea parties,” Kernen said. “They all have your name in them, like you caused it. Are you actually attending any or are you just sort of got the idea going initially? What do you think? I mean, you’re like a cultural phenomenon at this point.”
Santelli didn’t shy away. He called the rallies American and said he was proud of what he inspired.
“I don’t know about cultural phenomenon, but I’ll tell you what,” Santelli said. “I think that this tea party phenomenon is steeped in American culture and steeped in American notion to get involved with what’s going on with our government. I haven’t organized. I’m going to have to work to pay my taxes, so I’m not going to be able to get away today. But, I have to tell you – I’m pretty proud of this.
He also said despite the claims from others in the media, including people at CNBC’s sister network MSNBC, calling the movement “Astroturf,” Santelli declared it a grassroots movement.
“I think from a grassroots standpoint, I’m sure some of the media out there is not going to peg it that way, but isn’t it about as American as it gets – for people to roll their strollers and make their signs and go voice their opinion about the direction of the country?” Santelli said. “Good, bad or indifferent – that’s a great thing. There’s not a lot of countries, of course, that afford their people that, that type of right. It’s a great thing.”
Kernen warned some may try to capitalize off the phenomenon he inspired.
“Just be careful, you may have some self-righteous type go off on a populist rant about your populist rant,” Kernen added.
However, Santelli told Kernen inciting mobs and pitchforks wasn’t part of his playbook.
“Well, you know, populist rant – mobs, pitchforks, that’s the vocabulary I’m certainly not using,” Santelli responded. “But, I’m sure it’ll be out there nonetheless.”