President Trump may have already forgotten his controversial speech at the Boy Scouts of America’s annual jamboree earlier this week, but on Thursday, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh apologized on Trump’s behalf.
“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 wrote in an official statement. “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.”
Surbaugh further added that despite Trump’s very decidedly partisan comments, inviting him was “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.”
On Monday, Trump kicked off his address to the crowd of 40,000 troops, volunteers and parents with a reassurance that he was going to “put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C.”
Shortly afterward, however, Trump seemed to forget about his disclaimer, and bulldozed ahead in a rambling speech that touched upon Obamacare, “fake news,” military spending and an old friend of his who lived an “interesting life” on a yacht after making millions.
“I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp,” Trump said at one point. “And it’s not a good place. In fact, today I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or, perhaps, to the word ‘sewer.’ But it’s not good. Not good.”
Critics slammed Trump’s speech at the celebration as inappropriate, given the nonpartisan nature of the Scouts. Surbaugh pointed out that the Scouts’ duty is and always will be to teach young men to live according to a code of “trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery.”
“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. … As part of our program’s duty to country, we teach youth to become active citizens, to participate in their government, respect the variety of perspectives and to stand up for individual rights,” he said.
This past January, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would allow transgender boys to become members, a landmark decision that was largely applauded. On Wednesday, Trump issued a trio of tweets that barred transgender individuals from serving in the military “in any capacity.”