WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s fiery speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia has infuriated parents and former scouts.
Standing before thousands of school-aged Scouts, Trump began with a bit of profanity Monday night and then went on to rage for more than half an hour against the media and other perceived political enemies.
Trump was cheered by the crowd, but his comments put an organization that studiously avoids political conflict in an awkward position.
The Boy Scouts’ official Facebook page was filling up with comments condemning the speech. Several posted links to the Scouts’ policy on participation in political events — which sharply limits what Scouts should do.
One woman wrote in disbelief that the Scouts in attendance started booing when Trump mentioned former President Barack Obama. Trump noted from the podium that Obama had not personally attended either of the two national summits during his tenure. Obama addressed the 2010 jamboree by video to mark the Scouts’ 100th anniversary. The Jamboree is typically held every four years.
“As a Scout leader, my stomach is in knots about what Trump did today,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t. It’s downright icky.”
Trump kicked off his speech by noting it had been tough to get to the rural location where Scouts have been camping out for the 10-day event but said he was “thrilled” to be there. “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?” he said, as the boys cheered.
Yet much of what he had to say next was steeped in politics.
He jokingly threatened to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — an Eagle Scout who joined him on stage — if lawmakers do not repeal and replace Obama’s health care law. He called Washington a “swamp,” a “cesspool” and a “sewer.” He repeatedly trashed the media and, just as he does at his political rallies, directed the crowd’s attention to the reporters in attendance as he did so.
In one aside, he told the boys they could begin saying “Merry Christmas” again under his watch. In another, he talked about a billionaire friend who sold his company, bought a yacht and led “a very interesting life.”
“I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts so I’m not going to tell you what he did,” Trump teased. Then he said he’d run into the man at a cocktail party. The moral of Trump’s tale was that the billionaire “lost momentum,” something he said they should never do.
The Boy Scouts of America said after the speech that it does not promote any one political candidate or philosophy. The organization did not immediately respond to questions about blowback to the speech.