John Podesta was just named as a new senior-level adviser to President Obama last week, but he's already ruffling Republican feathers.
In a profile published late Tuesday night by Politico Magazine, Podesta is quoted comparing Republicans to the infamous cult led by Jim Jones, who was responsible for the 1978 cyanide poisoning of more than 900 of his followers in Guyana.
"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 of what Obama's White House team faces. Jonestown was the informal name of the settlement founded by Jones and his American followers.
On Wednesday, Podesta apologized for his impolitic comment.
"In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected," posted on his Twitter account.
The Jonestown incident marked one of the most horrific mass killings in American history.
Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., who had traveled to the settlement after receiving alarming reports of conditions at Jonestown from constituents, was shot dead by cult members as the congressman's delegation readied to fly out of Guyana with some members of the cult who wanted to leave. Current Rep. Jackie Speier, who was then an aide to Ryan, was wounded in the incident.
The author of the profile, Glenn Thrush, writes Podesta made the comment in an interview in the fall before Obama recruited the former Clinton administration chief of staff to join his team.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, took offense with the Podesta comment.
"If this is the attitude of the new White House, it's hard to see how the president gets anything done again," Buck said.
Jenny Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, called Podesta's comments "despicable."
"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."
By Aamer Madhani