WASHINGTON — An official with the Boy Scouts of America apologized to the scouting community on Thursday for the political content of President Donald Trump’s speech at the National Scout Jamboree.
“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,” Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said. “That was never our intent.”
Speaking Monday before about 40,000 scouts, Trump delivered a speech that would not have been out of place on his campaign or in his tweets.
He slammed the “fake news” media, promoted the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, boasted about his electoral night victory and called out the Washington “cesspool.”
“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts,” he said, continuing to speak about politics.
Trump also riffed on the Boy Scouts loyalty pledge to criticize those in Washington.
“We could really use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” Trump said.
The speech represented a marked change from prior presidential speeches to the Boy Scouts, which generally discussed values and service instead of partisan issues.
A number of former scouts criticized the nakedly partisan speech, and retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said the president “did not provide the proper example” to the crowd of young men.
In his letter, Surbaugh said Trump’s speech had “overshadowed” the rest of the jamboree and its focus on scouting.
“These character-building experiences have not diminished in recent days at the jamboree — Scouts have continued to trade patches, climb rock walls, and share stories about the day’s adventures,” he said.
“But for our Scouting family at home not able to see these real moments of Scouting, we know the past few days have been overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States.”
Surbaugh said the invitation to the sitting president to visit the Jamboree is a “long-standing tradition” dating to 1937.
“It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies,” Surbaugh said. “For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.
“While we live in a challenging time in a country divided along political lines, the focus of Scouting remains the same today as every day.”