John Podesta, the former top Clinton administration aide who is joining the White House as a special adviser, apologized Wednesday for a comment in which he compared the Republican Party to a cult that assassinated a congressman.

A new Politico profile quotes Podesta as likening the GOP to "a cult worthy of Jonestown" — a reference to an ambush by cult members more than three decades ago that killed Rep. Leo J. Ryan (D-Calif.) and seriously injured a top aide, now-Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).