Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on Monday blasted her Republican counterpart, Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Reince Priebus, for comparing President Obama to the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, which ran aground off the coast of Tuscany earlier this month and resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people.
"Unbelievable comparison," Wasserman Schultz, who is also a Democratic congresswoman from Florida, said in an interview with Fox News. "The captain of the Costa Concordia has been charged with manslaughter and 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."
"I'm not going to give any credence to those incendiary remarks," she said.
Priebus, speaking to Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, made the comment while downplaying the rough-and-tumble nature of the Republican presidential campaign, currently waging in Florida, which holds its primary on Tuesday.
"In the end, in a few months, this is all going to be ancient history and we're going to talk about our own little Captain Schettino, which is President Obama who is abandoning the ship here in the United States," Priebus said. "He's more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president."
In the weeks since the accident, Francesco Schettino has been disgraced for his behavior both leading up to and during the crash, and has been charged with multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship in Italy. He allegedly deviated from the ship's computer-programmed route to do a sail-by the island of Giglio, where the liner crashed into submerged rocks.
In a statement on Monday, Wasserman Schultz added that Priebus' remarks demonstrated an inappropriate "a lack of respect" for Mr. Obama, and said he should be "ashamed" of them.
"Chairman Priebus should be ashamed of his comments comparing President Obama to the captain of the wrecked Italian cruise ship," she said. "That he would compare the President of the United States with a man now charged with manslaughter for his actions shows a lack of respect for the President that is beyond the bounds of appropriate political discourse. More importantly, it shows a galling lack of sensitivity for the victims of this tragedy and their families, as well as those still living in anguish because their loved-ones are still missing.
She added: "Chairman Priebus crossed the line. People died, and he is exploiting and making light of a tragedy for political purposes. I call on Chairman Priebus to apologize for his comments and for the hurt he may have caused in making them."