In February of 2009, less than a month into the first Obama Administration, CNBC’s Rick Santelli delivered an off-the-cuff rant that many say was the inspiration for the Tea Party. On February 19, Chicago-based Santelli said, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing it.” In his new book “Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises,” former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says he unwittingly was responsible for that rant. Geithner writes:
I used to joke that I was personally responsible for the birth of the Tea Party, because Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC was a response to the mortgage modification program, and the Tea Party movement focused so much of its initial fire on the financial rescue.
About 18 months after the rant, Santelli reflected on the movement, telling TVNewser, “This grassroots movement of the Tea Party, to me, is as American as it gets. And whether you are left, center, or right, to me it’s not about politics. It’s about, in this country, we’re not afraid to speak up.” If they put Father of the Tea Party on my tombstone, “they can bury me with a smile,” Santelli added.