Sitting presidents have come to give a nonpartisan speech at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree since 1937. President Donald Trump came to give a speech – but many say he still broke the tradition in a “nauseating” way.
During the 35-minute speech Monday night to about 40,000 scouts in West Virginia, Trump threatened to fire Secretary of Health Tom Price if the Senate did not approve repealing and replacing Obamacare, railed against journalists and “fake news,” talked about getting invited to parties with Hollywood celebrities, sought praise for his election victory and bashed Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.
“We won and won. So when they said, there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270. I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won,” Trump said. “But we won – one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years – Michigan came in.”
Former sitting presidents to speak at the event include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Other speakers include former President Richard Nixon, though he was a vice president at the time, and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Obama taped a message for the event in 2010 but did not personally appear – which Trump pointed out to the crowd.
All stayed far away from politics in their speeches, according to the Washington Post, until Trump.
And while Boy Scouts in the crowd cheered and applauded during Trump’s speech, long-standing Boy Scouts were not pleased. Thousands commented on the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page that they wanted the organization to apologize to their sons enrolled in the program, while others said they would no longer enroll their children in Boy Scouts.
Boy Scouts of America reacted to the backlash Tuesday morning with a statement that distanced the organization from Trump, but stopped short of criticizing him and not not include an apology.
“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy,” the statement reads, according to NBC. “The invitation for the sitting U.S. president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”
One Eagle Scout who attended the National Jamboree in 1989 took to Twitter to talk about his family’s history within the organization – he said his grandfather was a scoutmaster for 40 years and awarded a silver beaver, while his father was also an Eagle Scout and attended the National Jamboree in 1957 – and criticize Trump’s speech. He said his son, a star scout on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, had wanted to attend this year’s Jamboree.
Other Boy Scouts and parents of Boy Scouts agreed with his assessment of Trump’s speech, and called on the organization to condemn how Trump had used the event. The statement by the organization was released later Tuesday morning.
Some pointed out past reporting in the Washington Post that speculated Trump had used his foundation – money meant for charity – to pay the $7 registration fee in 1989 to sign up Donald Trump Jr. for Boy Scouts.
“Its smallest-ever gift, for $7, was paid to the Boy Scouts in 1989, at a time when it cost $7 to register a new Scout. Trump’s oldest son was 11 at the time,” the Post reported. “Trump did not respond to a question about whether the money was paid to register him.”
The White House has not yet offered a response to the criticism.