The comparison was made when Ms Speier appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources hosted by Brian Stelter.
Ms Speier was shot while on an investigative mission to Jonestown decades ago. The CNN host asked her if she saw similarities between Mr Trump’s followers and the followers of the infamous cult leader.
“You look at Donald Trump, a charismatic leader, who was able to continue to talk in terms that appealed to those who were disaffected, disillusions and who were looking for something, much like those who became part of Jim Jones’ congregation, the Peoples Temple,” she responded.
“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.
Both leaders, Ms Speier claimed, were “merchants of deceit” who influenced their followers to “not look at the facts” and instead told them lies that were “indeed destructive”.
The congresswoman went on to state that she was hesitant towards comparing the two men, but that comparison became more apparent to her following the 6 January Capitol riots, which saw Trump supporters storming the building in an effort to overturn the presidential election results.
“It really forced me to think about it,” the lawmaker said. “Then we saw what happened on 6 January. How can you not recognise 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.”
Members of the Republican Party were also criticised by the Democratic representative for their “cult-like behaviour” towards the former president.
“The Big Lie has now been embraced by the majority of members on the Republican side in the House of Representatives. They are now paralysed to speak truth,” Ms Speier said. “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.”
While the congresswoman said she didn’t view all Trump voters as cult followers, saying they were “on all different levels,” she did call those who stormed the US Capitol “members of a cult”.
In 1978, Ms Speier accompanied then-California Representative Leo Ryan and other members of an American delegation to a compound in Guyana controlled by Jones’ cult.
The group was fired upon by members of the cult, with Ms Speier getting shot five times. Mr Ryan and four other people who went in the delegation were killed.
Later that day, the cult leader ordered 900 members of his cult, about one-third of whom were children, to drink or be injected with a grape-flavoured beverage that was laced with cyanide. They all died, in what became known as the Jonestown Massacre.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies