(NEW YORK) — Boy Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh has penned a blog post apologizing for President Donald Trump’s speech at the 2017 National Jamboree, following days of intensifying pressure to denounce the president’s politically charged remarks.
The 2017 National Jamboree, which this year hosted over 40,000 Boy Scouts, volunteers and visitors, according to the Boy Scouts, was a 10-day celebration for participants across the country to meet each other, go through character-building exercises and have outdoor adventures, wrote Surbaugh.
But those “real moments of Scouting” were “overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States,” he wrote.
“We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program,” he added.
It is a longstanding tradition — dating back to 1937 — for the Boy Scouts to invite the sitting president to speak at the jamboree. To date, eight presidents have spoken at the event in person, which typically happens every four years.
When Trump first took the stage on Monday, he claimed he didn’t want to talk politics at all.
“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” Trump asked the crowd in West Virginia.
Soon, however, the speech veered into political territory. The speech was the day before the Senate would vote to move forward on the motion to proceed on health care and Trump, who brought former Boy Scouts in his administration on stage with him, gave a warning to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who was standing behind him.
“Dr. Price still lives, the Scout, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our secretary of health and human services,” Trump said. “By the way, you’re going to get the votes?”
“He better get ’em. He better get ’em. Oh, he better. Otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired,’” Trump said.
The president also spoke, as he often does, about the night he won the presidency.
“Do you remember that famous night on television, Nov. 8, where they said these dishonest people, where they said there is no path to victory for Donald Trump?” Trump said. “They forgot about the forgotten people. By the way, they’re not forgetting about the forgotten people anymore. They’re going crazy trying to figure it out but I told them far too late.”
The crowd often cheered and chanted for the president, but viewers at home had more mixed responses, with many taking to the Boy Scouts’ official Facebook page to denounce the political nature of the speech.
Surbaugh addressed these concerns in his apology, extending “sincere apologies” to those “offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree,” he 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 nonpartisan and refused to comment on political matters,” Surbaugh added.
Asked to respond to the criticism Thursday, incoming White House press secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly touted the energy of the crowds responding to the president and said nothing about the substance of the president’s remarks.
“I haven’t seen the statement from the Boy Scouts. So I can’t comment any further than what I saw firsthand, and that was a lot of individuals, roughly 40 to 45,000 as reported, cheering the president on,” she said.
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