Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Who survived the Jonestown massacre more than 40 years ago, compared former President Donald Trump to late cult leader Jim Jones on Sunday.
“There is no doubt you could compare Jim Jones to a charismatic leader who brought his congregation together, forced them to do illegal things, and then took 900 of them to the jungles of Guyana where, over time, he then convinced them that they had to die. I could never say they killed themselves because I don’t think they were in control of their faculties, to be completely honest with you, ”Speier told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “So you look at Donald Trump, a charismatic leader, who knew how to continue to speak in terms that appeal to those who are unhappy, disillusioned, and who were looking for something. “
Speier called the two men “dealers in deception.”
Much like Jones once did, Trump pulls people away from the facts and tells “destructive” stories, she said.
Extreme Trump supporters, such as those who attacked the U.S. Capitol and sought to assassinate the Vice President and Speaker of the House, are members of a cult, Speier said.
“They have kissed Donald Trump, and they will do whatever he wants, no matter how bad, illegal and harmful to themselves,” she said.
But, she stressed, “I don’t put all Trump supporters in this category. “
In 1978, more than 900 cult members of the Temple of the People of Jones died after drinking, or being forced to drink, or injected with a grape-flavored beverage containing cyanide. One third of the victims were children.
Days before the mass suicide, Jones ordered cult members to shoot a US delegation led by California Representative Leo Ryan. The group included several reporters, concerned relatives, an official from the US Embassy and Speier, Ryan’s legal advisor. Five people were killed in the shooting at the airstrip near Jonestown, including Ryan. Speier was also seriously injured.
She wasn’t the first person to compare Trump to Jones.
Earlier this year, Albert Watkins, the lawyer representing so-called “shaman QAnon” Jacob Chansley in one of the U.S. Capitol riots cases, said his client was not crazy, but that the Repeated exposure to Trump’s lies and “inflammatory” rhetoric eventually overwhelmed him. Chansley’s ability to discern reality.
“People who fell in love with [cult leader] Jim Jones and went to Guyana, they had husbands and wives and lives. And then they drank the Kool-Aid, ”Watkins said.
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