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RNC chief doubles down on comparing Obama to disgraced Capt. Schettino

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called the controversy surrounding his comparison of President Obama to the captain who abandoned an Italian cruise ship that ran aground earlier this month "ridiculous" and refused to back down from the analogy during an interview Monday on Fox News.

"When I made those comments, I clearly used the analogy in both sentences that this president was akin to leaving his own job and campaigning non-stop all the time, worried about his job, number one, instead the jobs of the millions of Americans that are out there," Priebus said. "Now we've talked about the fact that this president is in love with campaigning, he's not in love with his job as president and getting the debt under control as promised and getting Americans back to work."

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Pressed about whether the analogy was appropriate considering the maritime crash killed at least 16 people — with more than a dozen still missing — Priebus stood by the comments.

"The analogy was made and it was an analogy of leadership, that in a time of crisis, this president is leaving the White House and campaigning non-stop all the time," Priebus said. "I think it's pretty clear, but if people out there on the Democratic side want to make hay of it they're going to be able to do it.

"The reality is that it's a fair analogy in regard to leadership in a moment of crisis that this president is more interested in his own job ... than the jobs of millions of Americans out there hurting right now."

Priebus made the initial comments during an appearance Sunday on CBS.

“We’re going to talk about our own little Captain [Francesco] Schettino, which is President Obama, who’s abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president,” Priebus said.

Michael Steele, the former head of the RNC, called Preibus's comments "unfortunate" in an interview earlier Monday.

"I think it's an unfortunate analogy. I mean, people died in that situation. I think it's, again, cute by nowhere," said Steele on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Democrats denounced the comments as inappropriate. Priebus's counterpart, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz (Fla.), called the remarks "incendiary."
 
"I'm not going to give any credence to those incendiary remarks. … For the RNC chairman to compare the president of the United States to someone who has been charged with manslaughter shows a dramatic level of insensitivity to the families of those victims," Wasserman Shultz told Fox News. "Unbelievable comparison. "

White House press secretary Jay Carney also weighed in Monday, saying Priebus had "gone too far."

"Let me just say that if you're so desperate for attention that you make an analogy that Michael Steele deems inappropriate, then you've probably gone too far," he said.


—Amie Parnes and Geneva Sands-Sadowitz contributed to the reporting of this article.