Well, let's look at what Jesus actually said:
Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Jesus was born of a woman (Mary), if your Protestant friend is to take this verse literally then he must also assume that John the Baptist is greater than Jesus.
In the 1st century rabbis and others would make absolutist or over the top statements in order to make a larger point. Jesus does this often in the Gospels. In this case Jesus' point is that everything John the Baptist preached about is fulfilled in Jesus and as great as John the Baptist was, what Jesus is bringing (the kingdom of heaven) is greater.