Former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett said Mitt Romney once compared the Tea Party to a ferret, according to a Time Magazine story published online.
Bennett was a three-term senator from Utah who was ousted at the state’s GOP convention by conservatives.
The Time story recounts a conversation between Bennett said Romney shortly after his ouster.
He said Romney related what he believed to be an apocryphal story about getting bitten by a ferret he had tried to rescue from a dishwasher.
“Mitt said the Tea party people are like that ferret in the dishwasher,” he said in the Time Magazine report. “They’re so frightened and angry, they’ll even bite Bob Bennett, who’s trying to get the country out of this mess.”
The story was adapted from “The New New Deal,” a book written by Michael Grunwald.
Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul did not confirm or deny Romney made the comments.
“Governor Romney believes the Tea Party is a welcome force in helping reform the status quo and a source of great energy for those who understand President Obama has spent too much and made government too big,” Saul said in a statement to Fox News.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who had the backing of Tea Party convservatives, issued defending Romney – and reiterating his support for conservative principles.
“Only a couple years ago, Americans came together under the banner of the Tea Party to fight for the principles that we hold dear – smaller government, a budget that spends within our means and policies that encourage economic growth,” Lee said in a statement. “In Mitt Romney, the Republican Party has a champion for those principles at the top of our ticket. The Romney-Ryan ticket has my full support, and I cannot wait to have them in the White House.”
Judson Phillips, of the Tea Party Nation told Fox News that if the comments are true, he would not be shocked.
“A couple of weeks ago I asked a top official in the Romney campaign when they were going to quit ignoring the Tea Party,” Phillips said. “No answer from them.”
“The Tea Party is the heart and soul of the GOP and if they are going to ignore us, Mitt Romney could end up as the 21 century equivalent of Zachary Taylor (the last Whig elected president),” he added.