When disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) announced his opposition to the House Republican budget plan over the weekend, the pushback from the right was as brutal as it was intense. Helping lead the charge was Rush Limbaugh, arguably the nation’s most powerful Republican, who was incensed by Gingrich’s comments.

It didn’t help when the Gingrich campaign lashed out at “minions” engaged in “cowardly” attacks — a group that apparently included Limbaugh.

Today, the ignominious GOP presidential candidate, scrambling to save his ruined reputation, tried to put things right by talking to Limbaugh directly.

Newt Gingrich appeared on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show this afternoon to explain the whole dust-up since he blasted Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare-privatizing budget proposal as “right-wing social engineering.” Gingrich’s latest explanation: He wasn’t talking about Ryan or the budget at all!

And what’s more, he’s supported that budget and Ryan’s plan ever since Ryan briefed him on it, weeks before its public announcement.

Referring to his “Meet the Press” appearance, Gingrich actually argued his condemnation of “right-wing social engineering” was “not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer.”

Limbaugh responded, “Well then what did you apologize to him about?”

“Because,” Newt said, it was interpreted in a way, which was causing trouble.”

While Gingrich is pretending he wasn’t talking about Ryan, the transcript proves otherwise. Ryan’s name wasn’t used explicitly, at least at first, but David Gregory asked about the House Republican approach to Medicare privatization. “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

Gregory then added that Gingrich’s line is “not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.” The Republican candidate replied, “I think that that is too big a jump.”

In other words, Gingrich blatantly lied to Limbaugh on the air today. I wonder if the host will mind.

Gingrich added today that his campaign is the sort of phenomenon that happens only “once or twice in a century.”

On this, I’m inclined to agree. Presidential candidates as breathtakingly ridiculous as Newt Gingrich are incredibly rare, and are truly a sight to behold.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.