A top executive at Boy Scouts of America apologized Thursday for “the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree” days after President Donald Trump turned an address to the Scouts’ annual gathering on Monday into an aggressive political rally of sorts.
In a statement, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said it “was never our intent” to inject political rhetoric into the event. He avoided pinning blame on the President specifically.
“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,” Surbaugh wrote. “It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. 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.”
The apology followed a much briefer statement from the organization, the day after Trump’s speech, which emphasized that the Boy Scouts “is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.”
Apparently, no one told the President. The speech he delivered, with members of his Cabinet standing on stage behind him, drew outrage from scouting parents nationwide.
Trump mused about changing his nickname for Washington, D.C. “from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool,’” joked about firing his secretary of health and human services, drew boos from the children in attendance by asking if former President Obama had ever addressed their event and said of the night he was elected President: “Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date.” (That was followed by a detailed, state-by-state recap of the election.)
Trump also reminded the Scouts that, “by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. ‘Merry Christmas.'”
“They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, folks,” he said.
Surbaugh ended his letter on Thursday: “In a time when differences seem to separate our country, we hope the true spirit of Scouting will empower our next generation of leaders to bring people together to do good in the world.”