KEY POINTS

  • Both Trump and notorious cult leader Jim Jones used their charisma to connect with disillusioned Americans, says Speier
  • The Jonestown Massacre occurred on Nov. 18, 1978
  • Speier was shot five times and left for dead that year
  • She said Trump still influences members of the US Congress

Rep. Jacki Speier, D-Calif., who was shot and left for dead during the 1978 Jonestown massacre, said Sunday that she sees similarities between former President Donald Trump and notorious cult leader Jim Jones. 

During an interview on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” Speier said that both Trump and Jones used their "charisma" to connect with “disillusioned” Americans.

“You look at Donald Trump, a charismatic leader, who was able to continue 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, the Peoples Temple,” Speier said on the talk show.

“They were lost souls, and the only difference between Jim Jones and Donald Trump is the fact that we now have social media. So all these people can find themselves in ways that they couldn’t find themselves before,” she added.  

The California representative also said that Trump has the power to influence members of the U.S. Congress, where his supporters have repeatedly promoted false claims about voter fraud during the 2020 election. 

“They are now paralyzed to speak the truth. They know that the election was not stolen. They know that it was held properly. They know that there was not massive fraud, and yet they will continue to mouth those words because their leader, Donald Trump, wants to hear them,” she said.   

Speier was an aide to Democratic Rep. Leo Ryan who traveled to Guyana on Nov. 17, 1978, to investigate claims of abuse and cult members associated with the Peoples Temple being held against their will. The two were traveling with a delegation that included news reporters, as well as concerned relatives of members of the cult. 

On Nov. 19, Ryan and his group, which included cult defectors, were waiting at a nearby jungle airstrip when they were ambushed by gunmen sent by the Peoples Temples leader Jones. Ryan and four other people were killed, while Speier was shot five times and was left for dead. 

Hours later, Jones ordered his followers to commit a “revolutionary act,” warning that soldiers who planned to torture them were coming. The youngest cult members were killed using a mix of cyanide, sedatives, and powdered fruit juice. Adults died after drinking poison-linked concoctions. Jones died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. 

Overall, Guayana officers found 909 people dead, a third of who were children. Only 33 survived the Jonestown massacre, according to History

Dead Bodies in Jonestown Hundreds of bodies are visible from the air near the community hall in Jonestown where Jim Jones had established the People's Temple. Photo: Bettmann / Contributor/ Getty Images