First Tea Party

The dominant theme seen at some of the earliest anti-stimulus protests was 'pork' rather than tea. The term 'porkulus' was coined by radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh on his January 27, 2009 broadcast, in reference to both the 2009 stimulus bill, which had been introduced to the House of Representatives the day before, as well as to pork barrel spending and earmarks. The term proved very popular with conservative politicians and commentators, who began to unify in opposition against stimulus spending after the 2008 General Election..


Competing claims have emerged over which protest was actually the first to organize. According to FreedomWorks state and federal campaigns director Brendan Steinhauser, activist Mary Rakovich was the organizer of a February 10 protest in Fort Myers, Florida, calling it the 'first protest of President Obama's administration that we know of. It was the first protest of what became the tea party movement.' Rakovich, along with six to ten others, protested outside a townhall meeting featuring President Obama and Florida governor Charlie Crist. Interviewed by a local reporter, Rakovich explained that she thinks the government is wasting way too much money helping people receive high definition TV signals' and that 'Obama promotes socialism, although 'he doesn't call it that\'. She was invited to appear in front of a national audience on Neil Cavuto's Fox News Channel program Your World. Regarding the role Freedomworks played in the demonstration, Rakovich acknowledged they were involved 'right from the start,' and said that in her 21⁄2 hour training session, she was taught how to attract more supporters and was specifically advised not to focus on President Obama.

New York Times journalist Kate Zernike reports that some within the Tea Party credit Seattle blogger and conservative activist Keli Carender with organizing the first Tea Party on February 16, 2009. An article written by Chris Good of The Atlantic credits Carender as 'one of the first' Tea Party organizers. Carendar organized what she called a 'Porkulus Protest' on President's Day, a few days before Rick Santelli used the phrase 'Tea Party' in what has been characterized as a 'rant' broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Carender contacted conservative author and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin in order to gain her support and publicize the event. Malkin promoted the protest in several posts on her blog, saying that 'There should be one of these in every town in America,' and that she would be supplying the crowd with a meal of pulled pork. The protest was held in Seattle on Presidents Day, 2009. Malkin encouraged her readers to stage similar events in Denver on the following day where President Obama was scheduled to sign the stimulus bill into law.
A protest at the Denver Capitol Building was already scheduled to coincide with the bill signing. Malkin reported that it was organized by the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity and spearheaded by the conservative activist group Independence Institute, as well as former Republican Representative and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo. Another protest organized by local conservative talk radio station KFYI was held in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, on February 18, and brought 500 protesters. KFYI organized the protest in reaction to Obama's visit to the local high school to hold his first public talk on elements of the stimulus bill. By February 20, Malkin was using her nationally syndicated column in an attempt to present these three protests as a movement to her fellow conservatives, continuing to call for more. 'There's something in the air,' she wrote, It's the smell of roasted pork..