Money Man's Hissy Fit Has White House on Defensive

Press secretary Gibbs returns fire to CNBC's Rick Santonelli

By Scott Ross
|  Saturday, Feb 21, 2009  |  Updated 2:33 PM CDT
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Money Man's Hissy Fit Has White House on Defensive

Getty Images, CNBC

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that CNBC's Rick Santonelli make the switch to decaf.

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In a moment reminiscent of Howard Beale's famous screed, CNBC reporter Rick Santelli howled into the wilderness that President Obama's new foreclosure rescue plan " is promoting bad behavior!" Incredibly, the White House felt compelled to respond.

"What we're doing is we're benefiting everybody," said Obama's housing secretary, Shaun Donovan.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was decidedly more pointed in his remarks on Santelli's outburst.

"I would encourage him to read the president's plan and understand that it will help millions of people, many of whom he knows," said Gibbs, the Washington Times reported. "I would be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I would be more than happy to buy him a cup of coffee - decaf."

Santelli's bit of absurdist theater came while he was reporting live from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.

Rick's Rant

 

Gibbs Offers Rick a Cup of Decaf

 

"The government is promoting bad behavior," Santelli screeched. "We certainly don't want to put stimulus pork and give people a whopping $8 or $10 in their check and think they ought to save it . . . How about this, Mr. President and new administration: Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages? . . . This is America! How many people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgages that have an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise your hands! President Obama, are you listening?!"

It has since become an Internet favorite, garnering more views than any other clip in CNBC's history.

Santonelli wasted no time in responding to the response, asking CNBC colleague Larry Kudlow, "Did I talk to any points in here that were unjust?"

Why Santelli curses Obama's plan to help average Americans, but managed to maintain his composure while the Bush Administration launched the bailouts for Wall Street remains unclear.

To qualify for the bailout, lenders and mortgage investors would have to agree on a lower interest rate that would be designed to reduce the borrower's mortgage payments to 38 percent of their pretax income. The government would then provide financing to bring that ratio down to 31 percent.

Another piece is designed to help borrowers who are still making their payments on time, but want to refinance into lower mortgage rates.

Republican lawmakers and conservative pundits immediately denounced the plan, naturally, as an affront to free market principles and said it promotes irresponsible borrowing.
 

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