It didn't take long for John Podesta, who was named as President Obama's 'executive action czar' last week, to rile up Republicans. Podesta, a controversial politcal figure who was also an advisor to former-President Bill Clinton, was quoted by Politico Magazine on Tuesday comparing the GOP to members of the Jonestown cult. The cult was led by Jim Jones, who murdered five people in 1978, including then-Rep. Leo Ryan. Jones also ordered nearly 1,000 of his followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.
"They need to focus on executive action given that they are facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress," said Podesta, while discussing what he sees as obstacles faced by the Obama administration.
Speaker John Boehner's office reacted immediately to the comment. “For those who’ve forgotten, a Democratic member of Congress was murdered in Jonestown and a current one, Rep. Jackie Speier, was shot five times during the same incident,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement after Podesta's comment. “If this is the attitude of the new White House, it’s hard to see how the president gets anything done again.”
Co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Martin, was even harsher in her condemnation of Podesta's insensitive comparison.
"Any man who is so historically ignorant as to compare millions of Americans who cherish freedom with the macabre and mass suicide at Jonestown is unqualified to hold any position of authority," she said. "We recommend Mr. Podesta read a book on basic American history."
Facing intense backlash, Podesta took to Twitter to apologize for the comment on Wednesday.
"In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected," Podesta said.
Podesta actually made the comment while speaking to Politico Magazine’s Glenn Thrush earlier this year, but the quote wasn't published in the magazine until Tuesday evening
In the video accompanying this article a survivor of the Jonestown massacre describes her experiences in the cult.
Rep. Leo Ryan (D-CA), traveled to Jonestown after receiving reports of people who were being forced to stay against their will and horrible abuse. Rep. Ryan as shot and killed by cult members as he and his delegation was attempting to depart with several members of the cult who wanted to leave. Current Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), at the time an aide to Ryan, was shot five times and seriously wounded. After Ryan's murder Jones ordered all members of his cult to commit suicide. Those who refused were murdered. The Jonestown massacre was one of the worst mass-killings in world history.