The man who delivered the rant that spurred the epidemic of tea party demonstrations around the nation said on Wednesday that he was "pretty proud" of the movement that he helped spawn, viewing it as a distinctly American experience.
CNBC's Rick Santelli, whose brash criticism of the White House's mortgage relief plan earned him a bit of notoriety as well as the hearts of a healthy chunk of libertarians, was asked by his colleagues to reflect on how far the message had spread.
"I don't know [if this is a] cultural phenomenon," he said. " But I'll tell you what, I think that this tea party phenomenon is steeped in American culture and steeped in the 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, from a grassroots standpoint and I'm sure some of the media out there is peg us that way, but isn't it about as American as it gets for people, roll their stroller, make their signs and go voice their opinion about the direction of the country? Good, bad or indifferent, that's a great thing. And there are not a lot of countries that afford their people that type of right. It's a great thing."
Santtelli, in the end, is just one of many notable actors in this tea party business. The movement, as documented by the Huffington Post's Jason Linkins, has roots in Ron Paul's presidential candidacy -- supporters pledged to fly a blimp and drop tea into the Boston Harbor. Once the CNBC host gave a voice to the cause, it took off like wildfire, co-opted, at one point, by conservative groups eager for a populist card to play. Over time, of course, fed-up taxpayers became frantic anti-Obama protesters. And herein was the line that Santelli declined to cross.
"Populist rant, mobs, pitchforks, that's vocabulary that I'm certainly not using," he told his CNBC colleagues. "But I'm sure it will be out there nonetheless."
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