Podesta apologizes for Jonestown crack

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John Podesta, the former Clinton chief of staff who was recently named a special adviser to President Obama, apologized Wednesday for comparing the Republican Party to the cult at Jonestown in an interview earlier this year.

Podesta made the comment while arguing 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.

The comment drew immediate rebuke from Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“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.

More than 900 people died at the Jonestown settlement in 1978, primarily from a cocktail of cyanide and other drugs mixed with a flavored drink. Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones ordered the event — which he termed "revolutionary suicide" — after an attack on a congressional delegation attempting to help individuals flee the colony.

Other Republicans also criticized Podesta's comment. 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."

"He clearly thought he did (need to make an apology) since he issued one very quickly," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday.

Reiterating Podesta's apology, Carney said it was a case of "snark getting ahead of his judgment."

"That reflects Mr. Podesta's view," he said.

--Amie Parnes contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:41 p.m.