By Jenna Johnson
Following President Trump’s campaign-style speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday evening, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement that did not comment on the president’s remarks but stated that the nonprofit organization is “wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.”
The organization said that it is a “long-standing tradition” to invite the sitting president to speak at the jamboree, a massive gathering of tens of thousands of Scouts from around the world that happens every few years, and that a president’s appearance “is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.” The statement never uses Trump’s name.
“The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president. It is our long-standing custom to invite the U.S. President to the National Jamboree,” according to the statement, which was posted on Twitter by NBC News on Tuesday morning. A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America has yet to respond to a request for comment from the Washington Post.
In years past, presidents have kept their remarks focused on Scouting values and advice for the young Scouts. In 1997, President Bill Clinton shared memories of his days as a Scout and urged the young boys to do “good turns” for others. In 2005, President George W. Bush spoke about freedom and doing the right thing. In 2010, President Barack Obama spoke to the Scouts via a video recording and urged them to do service. (Obama was booed by some of the attendees that year, perhaps in a foreshadowing of what was to come.)
Trump completely broke with tradition and focused on politics in his speech, urging Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, threatening to fire his secretary of health and human services if the legislation fails, bragging about his electoral wins in November, mocking Hillary Clinton for losing Midwestern states that he visited more often, and asking the Scouts whether Obama had ever attended a jamboree, getting a response that started as a “no” and turned into booing.
The crowd of 40,000 Scouts, volunteers and others seemed to enjoy the president’s remarks, rewarding him with bursts of cheers and booing mentions of Obama and Clinton. They also chanted “USA!” and “We love Trump!” The scene angered many with ties to the Scouting community who were stunned to see a nonprofit organization for children become so politicized.