"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's abandoning the ship here in the United States and is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president," Priebus said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Priebus had been discussing whether the infighting in the GOP presidential primary race would harm the eventual nominee's chances against Obama in November.
Following the remark, host Bob Schieffer seemed caught unprepared and asked with a laugh, "What did you just say? What did you call President Obama?"
"I called him Captain Schettino, you know the captain that fled the ship in Italy," Priebus replied. "That's our own president who's fleeing the American people and not doing his job and running around the country and campaigning."
As Schieffer gave another short laugh, Priebus added: "You made me think of it with the ships behind you, Bob."
Watch the clip below, via CBS. Priebus' comments come at the 1:50 mark.