Mitt Romney compared the Tea Party to a "ferret in the dishwasher" in a conversation with former Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), according to a new book. The longtime senator lost his seat in a 2010 state party caucus vote because of a surge in Tea Party support for his opponent, now-Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The anecdote was published in Time magazine in an adapted excerpt from Michael Grunwald's "The New New Deal," a sharply reported book about how the stimulus came to passage.

Bennett says his friend Romney commiserated with him about the Tea Party’s ingratitude, telling a presumably 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 says. “They’re so frightened and angry, they’ll even bite Bob Bennett, who’s trying to get the country out of this mess.”

The Tea Party has often viewed Romney with skepticism. The Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks opposed him in the primary, citing his past moderate positions. Since then, the group has dropped its opposition to Romney, and leaders like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) have endorsed him.

At the Republican National Convention, Tea Party activists are holding a rally outside the arena in Tampa featuring Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), both of whom opposed Romney during the primary.

"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," said Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, when asked for a response to the anecdote.

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  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    Photo courtesy of Jesse Russell in Madison, WI.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    "The American Taxpayers Are The Jews For Obama's Oven" reads one sign in Chicago--Tony Ramao.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    "Our Tax $ Given To Hamas To Kill Christians, Jews and Americans, Thanks Mr. O"--photo by Richard Terk in Sacramento, California.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    Courtesy of ginandtacos.com

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    One stream-of-thought poster reads, "No Taxes. Obama Loves Taxes. Bankrupt USA. Loves Baby Killing"--photo by Mary Wood.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    "Barack Hussein Obama The New face Of Hitler"-- T. Romao, Chicago.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    Edward Favara sent in this photo from Tampa, FL. A black figure that resembles President Obama is portrayed slitting the throat of Uncle Sam.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    Photo by Eric Aguirre in Bryan, TX.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    A car size sign blames Presidents Obama, Clinton and W. Bush for abortion, sodomy, socialism, and the so-called New Word Order--photo taken in Columbia, SC by W. Salter.

  • Most Offensive Tea Party Signs

    Photo by Bernard J. Schober in Phoenix, AZ.