Trump gives rambling campaign-style speech to Boy Scouts of America
Many boys seemed to enjoy Trump's message, but Boy Scouts of America stresses it's 'non-partisan' organization
After another challenging day in Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump flew to West Virginia to a field full of 40,000 chanting and cheering boy scouts at their jamboree, telling them he was happy to leave "the sewer" and fake news behind.
"Who the hell wants to speak about politics?" Trump boomed Monday evening, telling the boys he wanted to talk about success.
But politics proved too hard for Trump to resist on a day he spent pleading for Republican senators to vote to advance his long-promised health care overhaul and watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner being grilled on Capitol Hill about his contacts with Russia.
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It did not take long for Trump to veer from inspiration to denigration.
At times, the teenage boys loved it, cheering wildly and hollering like they were at a wrestling match. Other comments were met with mixed reactions or audible gasps.
"Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C., you've been hearing about with the fake news and all of that," he told the boys, sitting state by state in brightly coloured T-shirts.
"You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians and I see the swamp, and it's not a good place," said Trump. "In fact, today I said we ought to change it from the word 'swamp' to the word 'cesspool' or perhaps to the word 'sewer.' It's not good. I see what's going on and believe me, I'd much rather be with you, that I can tell you," Trump said.
He told the boys that the media were dishonest and would not show the size of the jamboree on television.
"Fake media, fake media," Trump said, eliciting a chorus of boos and cheers.
The Boy Scouts of America released a statement, first obtained by NBC News, in response to the event full of political attacks.
"The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy," the statement read. "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 BSA said it was continuing a longstanding tradition, as Trump was the eighth president invited to address the National Jamboree.
Jabs at Obama cheered by crowd
Trump recounted his election night victories, state by state, with the boys from Wisconsin cheering when they heard their state mentioned, the boys from Michigan doing the same.
But the most sustained round of cheers and jeers came when Trump mentioned his predecessor former president Barack Obama, who had declined invitations to speak to the scout gathering while he was in office.
"By the way, just a question: did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?" Trump said.
Trump said he has 10 former boy scouts serving in his cabinet and White House, and brought a few on stage as examples of boy scout leadership in action, including Health Secretary Tom Price.
Then he levelled a thinly veiled threat at Price.
"Hopefully he's going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare," Trump said, referring to Obama's signature health care legislation, as the boys booed.
"He better get them, otherwise I'll say, 'Tom, you're fired!'" he said, borrowing the catch phrase from his reality television show, The Apprentice.
With files from CBC News