03/16/2012 09:23 am ET

Rahm Emanuel: If Mitt Romney Can't Condemn Rush Limbaugh, How Will He 'Stand Up To Russia'? (VIDEO)

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If GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney can't stand up to Rush Limbaugh, how is he going to stand up to Russia?

That is the question Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked during a Thursday press conference, slamming Romney for refusing to stand up to the conservative radio host who called Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her support of employer-covered contraception.

"When you just take a look at the fortitude, the strength, the determination and the vision the president made on the auto industry and juxtapose to Mitt Romney, who doesn't have the fortitude, the strength of the character, in my view, to stand up to Rush Limbaugh," Emanuel said, according to NBC Chicago.

(Watch the comments above)

"It's not the language I would have used," Romney said of Limbaugh's comments earlier this month.

Emanuel said being in the Oval Office "requires spine," which he says Romney lacks.

"In my view I thought what Rush Limbaugh said was absolutely not only wrong, but it was absolutely repulsive. That said, if you can't stand up to Rush, how are you going to stand up to Russia," Emanuel added.

Emanuel also defended President Obama's handling of the auto industry bailout, adding that Romney would have allowed the industry to collapse and lose 1.3 million manufacturing jobs.

Romney's campaign rejected Emanuel's comments, telling WBEZ the White House was "dispatching its liberal allies."

"President Obama can't run on his disastrous economic policies or the historic loss of middle class jobs that has occurred on his watch. Americans won't be fooled by false and negative attacks - they know that President Obama has failed, and they are eager to replace him with a leader like Mitt Romney who can turn around our struggling economy," a Romney aid told the station.

Emanuel has criticized Romney several times in recent months. In November, he said Romney "turns a blind eye" to the middle class during an appearance on ABC's "This Week," and ripped the former Massachusetts governor for flip-flopping on various issues during a Democratic fundraiser in the fall.

"Mitt Romney says he's a man of steadiness and consistency. If that's true, then I'm a linebacker for the Chicago Bears," said the slim, 5-foot-8 1/2 mayor.

Emanuel's comments came a day before Romney came to the Chicago suburbs to greet voters in advance of a Tuesday state primary.