The head of the Boy Scouts of America apologized Thursday following widespread outrage over a politicized speech President Donald Trump gave at the organization’s National Jamboree on Monday.
“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. That was never our intent,” Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement on Thursday. “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. 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,” he continued. “We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
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. Many people at the Jamboree cheered and chanted “USA” during the speech.
Thousands of longstanding Boy Scouts and parents of Scouts left comments on the organization’s Facebook page, calling on them to apologize for inviting Trump to speak to the young men. Many threatened to withdraw their sons from the program.
Boy Scouts of America originally responded to the backlash Tuesday with a statement distancing itself from the political nature of Trump’s speech, but stopping short of criticizing or apologizing for it. But that wasn’t enough for many people – nearly 150,000 people signed a petition calling on Boy Scouts of America to explicitly say the partisan rhetoric in Trump’s speech was wrong.
Trump has not personally responded to the backlash.