The president and the Boy Scouts: Was there really a phone call?

President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.Va. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump waves to the crowd after speaking at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.Va. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump surprised observers of the national Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia with a speech that sounded like one he’d given many times at campaign rallies.

Trump’s hard-edged political approach attracted criticism from current and former scouts and led Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh to apologize "to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree."

Trump had quite a different read of what went down.

In a Wall Street Journal interview the day after the speech, Trump said the Boy Scouts leader called him with a rave review.

"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," Trump said.

Given the Boy Scouts’ statement apologizing for the political rhetoric, journalists were surprised to hear Trump’s remark about a phone call from scout leaders when the transcript was released on Aug. 1. Time magazine reported  that the Boy Scouts responded to its inquiry by saying they are unaware of any call placed by a senior official to Trump.

The White House now acknowledges that it didn’t go down as the president said.

On Aug. 2, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a clarification at a press briefing about whether the president had been praised over the phone by a top Boy Scout official.

It came up when a reporter at the press briefing asked about the Boy Scouts contradiction as well as a phone call with the Mexican president that the Mexican government denied took place. Here’s the transcript:

Reporter: "Why did the president say that he received a phone call from the leader of the Boy Scouts and the president of Mexico when he did not? Did he lie?"

Sanders: "No, on Mexico, he was referencing the conversation that they had had at the G-20 Summit, where they specifically talked about the issues that he referenced. In terms of the Boy Scouts, multiple members of the Boy Scout leadership, following his speech there that day, congratulated him, praised him, and offered quite -- I'm looking for the word -- quite powerful compliments following his speech. And those were what those references were about."

Reporter: "But the president specifically said that he received a phone call from the president of Mexico and the leader…"

Sanders: "They were actually direct -- they were direct conversations, not actual phone calls."

Reporter: "So he lied; he didn't receive a phone call?"

Sanders: "I wouldn't say it was a lie. That's a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place. They just simply didn't take place over a phone call; he had them in person."

So the White House has confirmed that, contrary to what the president told the Wall Street Journal, there was no call from the head of the Boy Scouts.

We inquired with the Boy Scouts about whether in-person conversations were held between Trump and scout leaders to communicate their high praise for his speech, but we didn’t hear back.