During his speech to the Boy Scouts of America at the organization's annual Jamboree on Monday, Donald Trump "joked" about firing one of his cabinet members, verbally attacked President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and regaled the audience with a wildly inappropriate anecdote about a wealthy friend with a yacht who presumably threw wild parties. The backlash to Trump's speech was enormous, with parents taking to the organization's Facebook page threatening to withdraw their sons from the program. It took three days, but the head of the Boy Scouts has issued an apology for exposing the scouts to a political speech.
"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," Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh wrote in a letter published online Thursday.
As the fallout from Trump's speech began to mount shortly after he delivered it to thousands of scouting-aged boys at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the group released a statement intended to mollify outraged parents and to distance the organization from Trump's thornier proclamations made that night.
"The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy," the group wrote in a statement Monday night, according to NBC. "The invitation to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies."
But the statement did not go far enough for parents like this one who wrote on the organization's Facebook page, reports The Independent. "I will be pulling my son out of Scouting after the silence following the political indoctrination at the Jamboree," the parent wrote. "Shame on you for allowing this to go unchallenged."
Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush have all made addresses at the Boy Scouts Jamboree, but those speeches generally focused on encouraging the young men to be the best versions of themselves, good citizens, and of service to others, according to ThinkProgress. But Trump's self-congratulatory fest entered into new territory that Surbaugh touched on in his apology, writing that Trump's appearance "overshadowed" the rest of the event and that the Boy Scouts' leadership "sincerely regret[s] that politics were inserted into the Scouting program."
A clause in the Boy Scout Oath encourages the young men to make the world a better place by helping others. "Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others," reads the part of the oath focused on being a good citizen. "By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world."
Clearly, Trump did not research the Boy Scout Oath when he boasted to the crowd, "By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero?" Or when he bragged that winning the Electoral College is harder than winning the popular vote, and so on...
"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," Surbaugh wrote in his letter. "Few will argue the importance of teaching values and responsibility to our youth -- not only right from wrong, but specific positive values such as fairness, courage, honor and respect for others."