NEW YORK—The Boy Scouts’ chief executive has apologized to members of the scouting community who were offended by the aggressive political rhetoric in U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent speech to the Scouts’ national jamboree.
The apology came in a statement from Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, three days after Trump’s speech to nearly 40,000 scouts and adults gathered in West Virginia.
“I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent,” Surbaugh wrote in a message posted online.
That was a break from the Boy Scouts’ earlier statements about Trump’s speech, issued the day afterward. Those merely noted that the scouts were “respectful of the wide variety of viewpoints in this country,” but made no mention of what Trump actually said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday afternoon.
Presidents are usually invited to address the National Scout Jamboree, a gathering that draws tens of thousands every four years. In the past, those presidential speeches dealt with broad themes like service, cooperation and the evils of drug use.
Trump’s talk in Mount Hope, West Virginia, began with a similar message — “never quit. Persevere. Never, ever quit” — but then it veered away toward other themes.
Trump said he wouldn’t talk about politics: “I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?”
But he did.
Trump called the news media “fake news,” and said the media would underplay the size of this crowd – as if the Boy Scouts were a crowd at a political rally. Trump told the scouts about watching the U.S. map turn red on election night, and blasted President Barack Obama for never attending a jamboree. Some in the crowd booed.
Trump also told stories about events rarely discussed from the rostrum at a Scout Jamboree, like a New York cocktail party — “the hottest people in New York were at this party,” he said — and a friend who got rich in real estate.
“He went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life,” Trump said. “I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did.”
Other U.S. presidents have delivered nonpolitical speeches at past jamborees. To the dismay of many parents and former scouts, Trump, a Republican, promoted his political agenda and derided his rivals, inducing some of the scouts in attendance to boo at the mention of Barack Obama, his Democratic predecessor.
Surbaugh said — quote — “we sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
With files from the Washington Post