Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Reporter Outburst Against Housing Plan Sparks Controversy

The New York Times - Rick Santelli, the CNBC reporter whose on-air suggestion of a “Chicago Tea Party” to protest President Obama’s housing plan sparked an Internet sensation and a smattering of actual protests across the country, found himself on the defensive Monday.

Mr. Santelli published a long blog post on CNBC’s Web site Monday evening denying any affiliation with the “tea party movements that have popped up” since his comments were broadcast. A number of blogs had questioned whether Mr. Santelli had coordinated his on-camera commentary with right-wing groups.

On Feb. 19, during one of his regular live reports from the Chicago Board of Trade, Mr. Santelli mentioned the tea party idea as part of a longer screed about the homeowner assistance plan.

At one point, as the traders around him booed the president’s housing proposals, he asked: “President Obama, are you listening?” The president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, was, and responded the next day by saying that Mr. Santelli “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Since the commentary, which was viewed millions of times on CNBC.com and YouTube, dozens of “tea party” protests have taken place in cities across the country, and some conservative groups are planning a Tax Day Tea Party for April 15.

Mr. Santelli’s televised commentary appeared spontaneous to viewers. However, the Internet domain name ChicagoTeaParty.com was registered in August 2008 — well before his commentary — but not used until afterwards. The registration was first reported by two bloggers for Playboy’s Web site who said it was evidence that Mr. Santelli’s remarks were a “carefully planned trigger” for the protests. (The blog post was removed without explanation Monday.) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/business/media/03cnbc.html

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