House GOP: Jonestown comment endangers bipartisanship

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said White House attempts at bipartisan outreach would be complicated after a new top adviser to the president was quoted comparing House Republicans to "a cult worthy of Jonestown."

In an interview conducted before he was tapped as a new senior adviser to the president, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta argued that the White House needed to embrace executive action because of intransigence among House Republicans.

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"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,” Podesta told Politico Magazine.

More than 900 people died at the settlement in northwestern Guyana in 1978, primarily from cyanide poisoning, following the murder of five individuals, including Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), who was assisting individuals who wanted to leave the compound.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner, indicated the comment could undermine bipartisan efforts by the White House.

“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,” Buck said.

“If this is the attitude of the new White House, it’s hard to see how the president gets anything done again,” he continued.

On Twitter, Buck sarcastically called Podesta "a real class act."

Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), tweeted that the comment was "appalling" and showed the congressional victims of the cult "no honor."