Abbott said within an hour of the end of the meeting the page (www.teaparty.gop.com) was gone -- and the Grand Old Party was finally aware of conservative frustrations she and others felt with Republican leadership.
"The GOP now knows we're not asleep anymore," Abbott told Reuters. "The giant has been awakened."
RNC officials said Steele, who according to Abbott and others agreed at the time to hold regional meetings with Tea Party groups around the country, was traveling and unable to comment for this story.
But on Fox News the day after the meeting, Steele described the meeting as part of a "healing process" with people disaffected with Republican leaders. Part of the process includes "acknowledging where we have gone wrong, where we have made the mistakes in spending, in growing the size of government, in stepping away from those very constitutional principles and values that have certainly defined this party," he said.
Accounts of that February 16 meeting challenge a common perception that the Tea Party movement was founded, funded and dominated by the Republican Party. Most of them are current or former Republicans -- up to 80 percent or more, with the rest split between Democrats, independents and Libertarians. And the movement has received help from conservative groups like FreedomWorks, which has provided training and logistical support to Tea Party groups and hopes the movement will boost fiscal conservatives in congressional midterm elections.
But Tea Partiers insist that they are not beholden to the GOP and warn that Republican candidates counting on an endorsement from them in November may well be disappointed.