The Democratic congresswoman, who represents part of California’s Bay Area, said Trump and Jones are both charismatic leaders who were able to “talk in terms that appealed to those who were disaffected, disillusioned and who were looking for something, much like those who became part of Jim Jones’ congregation. They were lost souls.”
“The only difference between Jim Jones and Donald Trump is the fact that we now have social media,” she told CNN Host Brian Stelter. “So all these people can find themselves in ways that they couldn’t find themselves before.”
Speier described both men as “merchants of deceit” who cause people to “not look at facts” and “sowed a story for them that was indeed destructive.” She said she did not want to connect the dots between Trump and Jones, but was asked the question frequently while on a book tour.
“It really forced me to think about it,” the lawmaker said. “Then we saw what happened on January 6. How can you not recognize that that was an illegal act that you were being asked by this charismatic leader to go do something that was going to be destructive? And you went and did it anyway.”
Speier said she has seen more parallels between the two since the January 6 Capitol riot, as well as cult-like behavior in Congress.
“The ‘Big Lie’ has now been embraced by the majority of members on the Republican side of the House of Representatives,” she said. “They are now paralyzed to speak truth.”
In 1978, Speier accompanied then-California Rep. Leo Ryan to Jonestown, a compound in Guyana controlled by Jones’ cult, the Peoples’ Temple, to investigate rumors of abuse. Ryan and four other visitors were assassinated while trying to leave. Speier was shot five times. Later that day, Jones told his 900 followers to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid, known as the Jonestown Massacre.
Stelter asked if she thought Republican members of Congress are in a cult. “They may not know they’re in a cult, but in fact, if they cannot think independently anymore—if they cannot look at the truth and speak the truth—they are, I think, exhibiting cult-like behavior,” she said.
Speier said they know the election was not stolen but continue to say it was because “their leader, Donald Trump, wants to hear” it was stolen.
She clarified she does not believe all Trump voters are showing cult-like behavior.
“Trump voters are on all different levels,” she said. “A Trump voter who came out at January 6 who believed the ‘Big Lie,’ who then attacked the Capitol, who were looking to assassinate the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, they are members of a cult.”
She said this group of Trump supporters “will do anything he wants, even if it is wrong, illegal, and harmful to themselves.”
Newsweek reached out Speier’s office for further comment but had not heard back Sunday evening.