Bringing on John Podesta to advise President Barack Obama is widely seen as a move meant to shake things up in the administration, but the White House probably didn’t have this kind of start in mind.
In comments made to Politico earlier this fall that were published Wednesday, the former Bill Clinton chief of staff and founder of the Center for American Progress compared House Republicans with members of a cult that committed mass suicide in 1978.
“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,” he said.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), reacted by calling Podesta a “class act.”
“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,” he added in a statement. “If this is the attitude of the new White House, it’s hard to see how the president gets anything done again.”
A spokesman for Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) declined to comment.
This isn’t the first time White House aides upped their rhetoric when describing the other party in Congress. In September, a senior White House adviser compared House Republicans threatening to hold the debt limit hostage to “people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”
Update: Podesta apologized on Wednesday morning.
In an old interview, my snark got in front of my judgment. I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected.
— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) December 18, 2013