A Scout Is Trustworthy—but Is the President?

President Trump claims a top Scout official told him that his “was the greatest speech that was ever made to them.” The Scouts deny the call was made.

Donald Trump waves to a crowd of Boy Scouts.
Carlos Barria / Reuters

In President Trump’s remarkable speech to the Boy Scout’s quadrennial Jamboree, he began to recite the Scout Law, making it through just the first two principles in the list: “As the Scout Law says: ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal.’”

Remarkably, he seems to have gotten both virtues backward in the process.

Last week, I observed that he was offering an inverted definition of loyalty:

When Trump paused at “loyal”—when he interjected, “we could use some more loyalty”—I was stunned. This is the president who told James Comey, “I expect loyalty.” Over the weekend, he’d inveighed against Republicans who “do very little to protect their President.” And there he was, looking out at a sea of Scouts, telling them that “Boy Scout values are American values,” apparently unaware that his own definition of loyalty—something that he himself is owed—is precisely the opposite of the definition those Scouts are taught to embrace—something that we owe to others.

After several days of controversy, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh issued a statement distancing the Scouts from the president’s decision to inject overt partisanship into an apolitical gathering. “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. That was never our intent,” he wrote, adding that “We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”

But this afternoon, Politico published a transcript of Trump’s July 25 interview with The Wall Street Journal. They asked him about the mixed reaction to his speech, and he objected:

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. So there was—there was no mix.

How to reconcile that with the strongly worded statement from the Scouts?

The Boy Scouts of America responded to the claim, simply, “The Chief Scout Executive’s message to the Scouting community speaks for itself.” A Boy Scout official said they’re not aware of any call from their national leadership to the White House.

A Scout is trustworthy. But the president?