The Washington Post

Podesta likens House GOP to Jonestown cult

White House advisor John Podesta apologized Wednesday after being quoted comparing House Republican leaders to the Jonestown cult. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A new White House adviser hired to stabilize operations after a difficult year for President Obama is already doing damage control for a verbal flub of his own making.

John Podesta, a former Clinton administration official who has taken a one-year assignment as a counselor to Obama, apologized Wednesday after being quoted comparing the House Republican leadership to the Jonestown cult led by Jim Jones that resulted in the deaths of more than 900 people.

Podesta made the remark in an article in Politico Magazine , saying that the Obama administration should focus on using executive action because it is “facing a second term against a cult worthy of Jonestown in charge of one of the houses of Congress.”

Although Podesta was speaking this fall before being hired by the White House, he quickly apologized to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) through a post on his Twitter account .

“In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment,” Podesta wrote. “I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected.”

Before Podesta’s apology, Boehner’s office expressed outrage, noting in an e-mail to reporters that Rep. Leo Ryan ­(D-Calif.) was killed during the incident in Guyana in 1978. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), then a congressional staffer, was wounded — shot five times.

“If this is the attitude of the new White House, it’s hard to see how the president gets anything done again,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

Podesta has advised Obama since leading his presidential transition after the 2008 election. He was named to a formal role in the Obama White House this month in the wake of the disastrous rollout of the administration’s insurance-enrollment Web site, part of the president’s signature health-care program.

Podesta, who begins in January, also is expected to help oversee a White House push to implement executive actions on climate change and other matters as part of an attempt to move forward on issues unlikely to win approval from a divided Congress.

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said Podesta’s Jonestown remark does “not reflect the approach he has taken in his past or will take when he arrives here at the White House.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
New Hampshire primary: What to expect
New Hampshire will hold a traditional primary just eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Polling in the Granite state has historically been volatile in the final weeks before the primary. After the Iowa caucuses, many New Hampshire voters cement their opinions.
The Post's Ed O'Keefe says ...
Something has clicked for Bush in New Hampshire in the past few days. What has transpired by no means guarantees him a top-tier finish in Tuesday’s Republican primary here, but the crowds turning out to see him are bigger, his delivery on the stump is crisper and some of his key rivals have stumbled. At the least, the developments have mostly silenced talk of a hasty exit and skittish donors.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.