The Boy Scouts of America is distancing itself from U.S. political disputes after President Donald Trump gave a controversial speech to thousands of scouts at their national encampment.
“The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy,” the group said Tuesday. “The invitation for the U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”
Trump initially told Scouts Monday night at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia that he would not talk about politics. "Who the hell wants to talk about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?" he said.
In the course of the half-hour speech, however, Trump fired barbs at former President Barack Obama and his election opponent last year, Democrat Hillary Clinton, while attacking the "fake" news media and "this horrible thing known as Obamacare," Obama's national health care law Trump is trying to repeal. He spoke about about the "cesspool" of lawmakers in Washington and boasted about his election victory.
Some Scout leaders took to social media to disparage Trump's speech, while the group's Facebook page was filled with comments criticizing the president for using the Boy Scout gathering for political attacks.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, wrote on Twitter, "As a Scout leader, my stomach is in knots about what Trump did today. If you haven't watched it yet, don't. It's downright icky."
About 40,000 Scouts, leaders and volunteers were on hand for the Jamboree, an event held every four years.
Obama never appeared at the event in person during his two terms in the White House, but did send a video message in 2010, the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Trump took note of that.
"By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a Jamboree?" he asked. "The answer is no... But we'll be back."
Toward the end of his remarks, Trump reminisced about his election victory last November, mocking news media and pollsters who had predicted he would lose.
"But do you remember that incredible night with the maps?" he asked, referring to state-by-state maps denoting Democratic or Republican wins with blue or red coloring. "And that map was so red it was unbelievable, and they didn't know what to say."