The leader of the Boy Scouts of America has apologized for President Donald Trump's politically-charged speech before thousands of scout members at the organization's jamboree. The BSA has historically been strictly non-political.
On July 24, Trump spoke before roughly 40,000 Boy Scouts at their national jamboree in West Virginia. Several parents were outraged by the president's comments to the audience of boys aged 11-18, many asserting that the event was styled like a campaign rally, according to Business Insider.
"Do I now have to worry my son will be indoctrinated into a Trump youth org when he attends a BSA event??!" tweeted out one mother.
"[BSA] that was a disgusting display tonight," tweeted out a father. "I am withdrawing my son from your organization next year. You should all be ashamed."
On July 27, BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh issued a formal apology to all offended parties, lamenting that the jamboree had been "overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States."
"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," Surbaugh wrote on Scouting Wire. "That was never our intent."
The BSA chief noted that the organization had invited sitting presidents to attend their jamborees since 1937, asserting that those speaking engagements were never a political endorsement of one party.
"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," Surbaugh added. "We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program. 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."
Trump's speech during the jamboree had been largely political. Before an audience of children and teenagers, the president touted his policy agenda and his electoral victory in November 2016.
"But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn't know what to say?" Trump told the Boy Scouts, according to TIME. "And you know, we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College. Popular vote is much easier."
Trump incited the audience to boo former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The president also told Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on stage that he would fire him if GOP lawmakers did not pass a repeal of the previous administration's Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare."
On July 27, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia called on the BSA to apologize for allowing the speech to happen, chastising the crowd for booing a former president.
"They booed, belying the Boy Scout Oath and negating your statement that the BSA is non-political and non-partisan," Connolly wrote to the organization in a letter, according to The Hill.
Connolly, a former Boy Scout, concluded that the speech "directly contradicted the spirit of Scouting and the tenets of Boy Scout Law."
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama defended Trump's speech.
"President Donald Trump was absolutely right when he said that the United States has no better citizens than it's Boy Scouts and it's wonderful that he has appointed so many Eagle Scouts to cabinet level positions," Strange told The New York Times.
The same day that Surbaugh offered an apology, BSA President Randall Stephenson disclosed that he had anticipated Trump would give a controversial speech when he invited him to the jamboree.
"Anyone knows his speeches get highly political -- we anticipated that this could be the case," Stephenson told the Associated Press. "Do I wish the president hadn't gone there and hadn't been political? Of course."
The BSA president added that he had invited Trump out of historical precedent. Since 1937, the BSA jamboree had hosted former Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Former first lady Nancy Reagan had attended the event in former President Ronald Reagan's stead, while Obama addressed a jamboree through a video message, according to The Washington Post.
"I don't see why we would break with tradition, whoever is holding office," Stephenson concluded.