“A lot of people have been credited with starting the modern-day tea party but make no mistake, it was Rick Santelli,” Glenn Beck told Business Insider in an email. “His off the cuff monologue spoke the words that millions of Americans felt but could not nor dare not speak.”
Five years ago on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, CNBC’s Rick Santelli bellowed what would later become his most famous rant ever.
Which is saying something if you’ve ever watched CNBC, where Santelli has reigned as de facto ranter-in-chief since 1999.
“All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organising,” he screamed from the CME on February 19, 2009. It was time, Santelli said, for another Tea Party.
“We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July!”
And with that, a new movement was born. Santelli would later call it the “best five minutes of my life.”
His infamous segment — in response to a minor homeowner bailout — is now credited with helping launch the Tea Party tidal wave that began during the early years of the Obama administration and ended up “shellacking” the Democrats in the 2010 midterms.
Business Insider caught up with Santelli via email to see how he feels about the rant’s legacy.
Business Insider: Do you still feel like that segment was the “best 5 minutes of your life?”
Rick Santelli: Professionally the best five minutes of my life.
BI: Did you plan the speech? Or was it all off the cuff?
RS: All off the cuff.
BI: Do you stand by what you said or regret any of it? Do you feel any differently now?
RS: Stand by…no regrets. Don’t feel any differently now. Lots of people, companies and agencies played a role but that day I was focused on the home owners that failed in their personal financial responsibility. It was about contract law and about the government promoting bad behaviour.
“Government is promoting bad behaviour… Do we really want to subsidise the losers’ mortgages?”
BI: Glenn Beck has credited you for getting the ball rolling on the Tea Party. Do you think you fathered the movement?
RS: I was fed up, the country was fed up….taxpayers were on the hook after the credit bubble popped…..the country was a tinderbox and I said something that lit the fuse.
“This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbour’s mortgage? President Obama, are you listening?”
In the years since the diatribe, the Tea Party still proves to be a powerful force within the American political system, its Members of Congress pressuring both the GOP establishment and the White House on issues from the debt ceiling to immigration. But to a certain extent, the intensity of 2010 has flamed out.
Santelli took his share of criticism. “At this point, the financial network is channeling the culture it covers. The barrier between reporter and subject has nearly dissolved,” Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum wrote at the time. “For a journalist to go off with ‘Tea Party’ rhetoric while maligning millions of down-on-their-luck folks out there is just wrong.”
Watch the famous rant. Happy five year anniversary: