Update: White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained Wednesday that Trump didn't actually take *phone calls* from the head of the Boy Scouts and the Mexican president -- as Trump clearly said -- but that they were "direct conversations."
.@SHSanders45 on Trump claims he got phone calls from Mexican & Boy Scouts leader: "They were direct conversations not actual phone calls. "
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) August 2, 2017
I have reached out to the Boy Scouts to see if they have an updated comment.
President Trump looks to have made another fantastic statement about one of his speeches.
On Tuesday, Politico got its hands on a previously unpublished transcript of Trump's July 25 interview with the Wall Street Journal. In that interview, Trump makes a bold claim about his controversial Boy Scouts speech the day before. After someone from the Journal suggested that Trump got a “mixed” reaction to his speech, Trump — as he often does — seemed to overcompensate.
“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. “So there was — there was no mix.”
Except a source for the Scouts said this doesn't appear to have happened at all.
“We are not aware of any call from national BSA leadership to the White House,” the source said.
To be clear, the Scouts haven't completely denied that their leadership made such a call. Might there have been one before they realized the PR crisis they had on their hands? Sure.
But that phone call would indeed be very difficult to square with the Boy Scouts' official reactions to the speech, which was chock full of politics and petty feuding with Trump's political opponents and the media — alongside the highflying, aspirational rhetoric that presidents usually deliver to young Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree. Trump delivered the speech in West Virginia on the evening of July 24, and the Scouts appeared to rebuke him the next day, saying the organization is “wholly nonpartisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.”
That was the same day — July 25 — that Trump spoke with the Journal. Two days later, July 27, the Scouts issued a fuller effort to distance themselves from Trump's speech. In a letter posted online, the Scouts apologized.
“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,” said Michael Surbaugh, the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America. “That was never our intent.”
In an official statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, when asked about the call Trump described, Boy Scouts Communications Director Effie Delimarkos responded: “The Chief Scout Executive’s message to the Scouting community speaks for itself.”
This, of course, wouldn't be the first time Trump has inflated the reception his speeches have received. To wit:
- He told the New York Times this month of his speech in Poland: “Enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.”
- He told the Associated Press in April of his speech to a joint session of Congress in January: “Some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.”
- After the media noted that Trump's inauguration had fewer attendees than President Barack Obama's, the White House vehemently insisted, counter to all available evidence, that it set records.
- Trump has repeatedly claimed other record crowds, despite holding speeches in small arenas or there being empty seats.
Trump is also known to infer much more praise than he actually receives. The most telling example, to my mind: He claimed a few months ago that a top House Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), told him, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.” As I wrote back then, there is simply no way that Cummings said this, and indeed Cummings said he told Trump that he *could* be a great president if he represented all Americans.
But it was clear immediately after the speech that Trump had ventured into some pretty dicey territory. And given his track record on this kind of thing, it doesn't take much imagination to conclude that Trump himself imagined it.
Update: And if you need another example of Trump apparently conjuring a phone call out of thin air, Mexico's president says he never praised Trump's immigration policy in a call, as Trump claimed Monday.
Trump had said that "even the president of Mexico called me — They said their southern border, very few people are coming because they know they're not going to get through our border, which is the ultimate compliment."