The Boy Scouts of America is defending its decision to invite President Trump to its annual jamboree amid a backlash over his rambling, highly political speech to nearly 40,000 Scouts Monday 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 said in a statement Tuesday. “The invitation for the sitting 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.”
“The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president,” the organization added. “It is our long-standing custom to invite the sitting U.S. President to the National Jamboree.”
To begin his 38-minute address at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., on Monday, Trump said, “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?”
But the president proceeded to do just that, railing against what he called a “cesspool” of politicians in Washington, D.C., Obamacare and the “fake news” media while boasting about his 2016 Electoral College victory.
“I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp,” Trump said. “And it’s not a good place. In fact, today I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool’ or, perhaps, to the word ‘sewer.'”
The president gave a shout-out to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
“Dr. Price still lives the Scout Oath,” Trump said. “And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully, he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us, folks. By the way, you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better — otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ He better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying ‘repeal and replace Obamacare,’ we have a chance to now do it. They better do it.”
“I have to tell you our economy is doing great,” Trump told the Scouts. “Our stock market has picked up since the election, Nov. 8. Do we remember that date? Was that a beautiful date? What a date. Do you remember that famous night on television, Nov. 8, where they said — these dishonest people — where they said there is no path to victory for Donald Trump?
“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 continued. “And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier. Because New York, California, Illinois — you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. We won and won. So when they said, there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270. I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. But we won — one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years — Michigan came in. And we worked hard there. My opponent didn’t work hard there because she was told she was going to win Michigan.”
Trump then asked the scouts whether former President Barack Obama, who addressed the jamboree via video in 2010, had ever attended the event in person. The question drew shouts of “no” and jeers from the crowd.
Many parents were not amused by Trump’s antics.
And yet, Trump saw fit to turn the largest gathering of Boy Scouts into a political gathering, as if they had come together only to see him.
— Ted Genoways (@TedGenoways) July 25, 2017
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.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 25, 2017
“Since when does this organization get involved in politics?” one woman wrote on the Boy Scouts of America Facebook page. “In fact, isn’t it NOT allowed? Who let this happen? I can’t believe the Boy Scouts booed a living American President.”
“The BSA should immediately lose their tax exempt status,” wrote another. “I will no longer be associated with the organization. My time and money will go elsewhere.”
Trump also went on an extended riff about the late Long Island real estate developer William Levitt:
He sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. At the time especially — this was a long time ago — sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had 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. Should I tell you? Should I tell you? Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life. So — look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right? He had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate. And they didn’t know anything about building homes, and they didn’t know anything about picking up the nails and the sawdust and selling it — and the scraps of wood. This was a big conglomerate based in New York City, and after about a 10-year period they were losing a lot with it. It didn’t mean anything to them, and they couldn’t sell it.
So they called William Levitt up and they said, ‘Would you like to buy back your company?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I would.’ He so badly wanted it, he got bored with this life of yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored too. Believe me. Of course, having a good few years like that isn’t so bad. But what happened is he bought back his company, and he bought back a lot of empty land. And he worked hard in getting it zoning, and he worked hard on starting to develop. And in the end he failed, and he failed badly. Lost all of his money. He went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross who was one of the great people — he came up and discovered — really founded — Time Warner, and he was a great guy. He had a lot of successful people at the party. And I was doing well so I got invited to the party. I was very young, and I go in — but I’m in the real estate business — and I see 100 people, some of whom I recognize and they’re big in the entertainment business. And I see, sitting in the corner, was a little old man who was all by himself. Nobody was talking to him. I immediately recognized that that man was the once great William Levitt of Levittown, and I immediately went over — I wanted to talk to him more than the Hollywood show business communications people.
So I went over and talked to him, and I said, ‘Mr. Levitt, I’m Donald Trump.’ He said, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘Mr. Levitt, how are you doing?’ He goes, ‘Not well, not well at all.’ And I knew that, but he said, ‘Not well at all.’ And he explained what was happening and how bad it has been and how hard it has been. And I said, ‘What exactly happened? Why did this happen to you? You’re one of the greats ever in our industry. Why did this happen to you?’ And he said, ‘Donald, I lost my momentum. I lost my momentum.’ A word you never hear when you’re talking about success. When some of these guys that never made 10 cents, they’re on television giving you things about how you’re going to be successful, and the only thing they ever did was a book and a tape. But I’ll tell you, it was very sad, and I never forgot that moment. And I thought about it, and it’s exactly true. He lost his momentum. Meaning, he took this period of time off long — years — and then when he got back, he didn’t have that same momentum. In life, I always tell this to people, you have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum, and if you don’t have it, that’s OK. Because you’re going to go on and you’re going to learn and you’re going to do things that are great. But you have to know about the word ‘momentum.’
Trump also made note of the crowd size at the jamboree.
“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?” the president said. “The fake media will say, ‘President Trump’ — and you know what this is — ‘President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.’”
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