ThinkProgress reported on Monday that CNBC’s Rick Santelli agreed with radio host G. Gordon Liddy that the White House was making “veiled threats” to him, claiming, “My kids are nervous to go to school.” He echoed those sentiments on the Mike Gallagher show. However, after Matt Lauer pressed him on the claim on the Today Show this morning, Santelli tried to walk it back, finally admitting that the White House was not threatening him. “Well, listen, I’m not saying ‘threatening,’” he said. Watch it:
The statement Santelli said was “very scary” to hear was from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who was pointing out that while a former derivatives trader might have a fine home and a well-paying job, “the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school.”
LAUER: Let me take this a step further. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, commented, called you out in the briefing room, and after you heard his comments, you said that he was threatening you. Are you serious about that?
SANTELLI: Listen, let’s put it this way. Matt, you’re married, are you not?
LAUER: Yeah, I am.
SANTELLI: OK. This is more about the feelings my wife had when she watched the body language and listened to what he was saying, and I think you understand –
LAUER: But this is the White House press secretary. Do you think he’s going to threaten you on national television?
SANTELLI: Well, let’s rephrase the question. Do we think it’s normal to be named by name, as opposed to the general media at large, say the cable guy or some of the comments? I find, my wife finds, and many of my friends find that the direct confrontation and pointing me out by name just is not ordinary, and I’ll leave it at that and let people make their own judgment.
DYLAN RATIGAN (CNBC anchor): Let me say — let me say one thing on Rick’s behalf. Rick has — is channeling an emotion everybody in America is feeling, that people were able to cheat the system, whether it’s on Wall Street, whether it was politicians, or whether it was homeowners. Rick has been aggressive in criticizing the treatment of the bankers, the behavior of the politicians. He’s gotten a lot of attention now for the homeowners, but that is not a unique issue. He hits a behavioral economics 101 issue, which is people will not engage a system that they do not believe is fair.
LAUER: And I completely understand your supporting Rick, and Rick, I’m sure your wife is a lovely person. However, what Robert Gibbs said was, basically, he was — and I’m paraphrasing here — he was saying he’s not sure that as a former trader and current television personality, you’re living in the same kind of neighborhoods where people are struggling to pay their mortgages. He wasn’t threatening you.
SANTELLI: Well, listen, I’m not saying threatening. And just to be pinpointed specifically, I find very unusual, and I think that it’s more of a decision for you as the press or all the people on the lawn that giggled at the joke about caffeine — and it was funny — but how would they like to be pinpointed specifically? I think that’s the issue at hand. I don’t want to make more out of this. You know, here I am, and I want to continue to do what I’ve always done, and that is, question motivation, whether it’s the Fed chairman, and we know –
LAUER: Right, but the only thing I would say — the only thing, Rick, I would say –
SANTELLI: — that he wants the economy to cure down the road, but is it true?
LAUER: But the only thing I would say , Rick, is if you go out of your way to call out the president of the United States, you have to expect that his representative may go out of his way to call you out. Isn’t that go — doesn’t that go with the territory?
SANTELLI: Well, what we’re really saying is calling out — as a member of the press, do I not get to ask a question or question the system? I understand that. I just –
LAUER: And as the press secretary, doesn’t he have the right to ask you a question?
SANTELLI: He certainly does. It would be nice if he did it face to face, but I don’t know that he needs to throw out my name. I just have an issue with that.
RATIGAN: I think that the emotion here is a real emotion that everybody in this country feels, and we would be well-served by this administration, Republicans and Democrats, making it clear that they are going to make sure that the cheaters on Wall Street and in the housing market and in Congress will be caught. I think that if you back up and look at the emotion, I think that’s Rick’s point –
LAUER: Clearly –
RATIGAN: — your point, and my point, and a lot of other people’s point.
LAUER: Clearly, it’s touched a nerve. We will all agree on that.
SANTELLI: One think, Matt let’s get this out.
LAUER: Real quick. Real quick, Rick.
SANTELLI: Everybody that’s talking right now, we want all of this to succeed. We just want to make sure that as we spend the money we don’t have, we’re getting a return and people have a chance to look at it and understand where it’s going –
SANTELLI: — and what type of return we’re getting for these trillions.
RATIGAN: And you can’t restart a system that’s riddled with cheaters.
LAUER: All right, guys, thank you. Dylan, Rick, thank you very much.