“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,” Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh wrote in a letter to the organization. “That was never our intent.”
“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.”
Despite vowing not to discuss politics during his remarks, the president did so anyway. He jokingly threatened to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price if Senate Republicans don’t manage to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. He also recounted his electoral victory against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and railed against the “fake news” media.
It was the second time in three days that the president went off-script at a nonpartisan event to tout his political agenda.
Two days earlier in Norfolk, Virginia, he told the crowd at the official commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier to call their lawmakers to urge passage of his budget. That request could have been interpreted by the service members in the audience as an order from their commander in chief, marking a breach in protocol.
During Thursday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether the president owes the Boy Scouts an apology.
“I was at that event and I saw nothing but roughly 40 to 45,000 Boy Scouts cheering the president on throughout his remarks, and I think they were pretty excited that he was there and happy to hear him speak to them,” she said.
When pressed on the issue, she again dodged whether the president should apologize.
″[I] heard nothing but a lot of cheering and probably one of the most energetic crowds I’ve seen in front of the president,” she said.
This story has been updated with comment from Sarah Huckabee Sanders.