President Donald Trump’s remarks at the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Jamboree have led to a public apology from Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh.
Trump spoke in front of approximately 40,000 scouts, volunteers, and staff at the 20th National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Mount Hope, W.V. on Monday. Though Trump remarked “who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts,” his speech was largely political. During his comments, Trump discussed his election victory over Hillary Clinton, voiced his hope that Republicans will be able to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and criticized President Barack Obama for having not attended previous jamborees.
“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,” Surbaugh said in a statement issued today. “That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies…We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
BSA’s main customer service line currently includes a prompt reiterating the apology and references a Facebook post offering the same. A separate prompt also enables callers to leave messages in response to Trump’s remarks.
The efforts go beyond an initial statement released by BSA on Tuesday. That statement focused on BSA’s tradition, dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt, of inviting the sitting U.S. president to speak should a National Jamboree take place during his or her term. Though it noted that BSA is a nonpartisan organization and that presidents are invited out of respect for the office, the statement did not include an apology.
Asked for the rationale behind the apology and how Trump’s speech might change the long-standing tradition, a BSA spokesperson declined additional comment. “The BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh shared his thoughts about the National Jamboree with the Scouting family. The blog post speaks for itself,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Prior to Surbaugh’s apology, Richard Mason, president of the Greater New York Councils of Boy Scouts of America voiced his concern in a statement on Tuesday. “Scouting is an apolitical organization that was founded to teach and support our youth,” Mason said. “It is a Scouting tradition to invite the President to give inspiring remarks to the tens of thousands of young people gathered at the Jamboree. However, it is inappropriate for any President to use the Jamboree as a backdrop for political statements.”
BSA hosts the National Jamboree every four years and Trump was the eighth sitting U.S. president to attend the event, according to a July 21 BSA press release. Recent attendances include President George W. Bush in 2005, President Bill Clinton in 1997, and President George H.W. Bush in 1989. Each sitting U.S. president has additionally served as honorary president of BSA since 1910. Boys and girls ages 12 through 18 attended this year’s event, representing programs including Boy Scouts, Venturing, Exploring, Sea Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and International Scouts representing 60 different nations.
Senior Editor Mark Hrywna contributed to this report.