In a Wall Street Journal interview published today, President Trump said the Boy Scouts’ top leaders called him to praise the controversial, politically aggressive speech he gave at its national jamboree.
Also today, the Boy Scouts have denied it.
“I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful,” Trump said in an interview published Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal and Politico.
“We are unaware of any such call,” the Boy Scouts responded in a statement. The organization said that neither of their top leaders — President Randall Stephenson and Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh — had placed that call.
Trump’s assertion that the leaders called his speech “the greatest ever made to them” appears to stand in contradiction to reality. Last week, Surbaugh issued an apology to members of the scouting community who were offended by it.
In his July 24 remarks, Trump attacked the media, encouraged the crowd to boo former President Barack Obama, criticized Hillary Clinton’s work ethic, stumped for the repeal of Obamacare — inspiring the crowd to chant “USA! USA!” — and threatened to fire Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, whom he had just introduced as a Boy Scout, if it didn’t happen.
Scouting leaders publicly apologized days later. “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,” said Surbaugh. “That was never our intent.”
The Associated Press reported that Boy Scout leaders anticipated Trump would make controversial remarks, yet felt obliged to invite him out of respect for the office. The Scouts gave adult staff members guidelines for acceptable audience reaction. Political chanting was specifically discouraged.
Stephenson told the AP that the guidance wasn’t followed impeccably.
The White House hasn’t commented on the president’s claim.