White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday said that despite what President Trump says, he did not actually get a phone call from the leader of the Boy Scouts complimenting his controversial speech at the annual jamboree.
Trump's speech in late July to a national gathering of thousands of Boy Scouts in West Virginia was criticized by many for being overtly political at an event where prior presidents have focused on subjects like volunteering and giving back. In response to the blowback, the chief executive of Boy Scouts of America later apologized that "politics were inserted into the Scouting program."
But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week — the transcript of which was released by Politico on Tuesday — Trump said that he received a call from the head of the Boy Scouts, and was told his speech to the organization and thousands of scouts was the "greatest."
"And 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 was quoted as saying.
However, an official with the Boy Scouts of America told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that they were unaware of any such phone call to the president.
When asked about the discrepancy at a White House briefing on Wednesday, Sanders acknowledged there was no phone call, saying that the president instead was referring to an in-person conversation.
"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?" the reporter asked.
(On Monday, Trump claimed the president of Mexico had called him about fewer border crossings into the US, which Mexican officials have denied.)
"No. On Mexico, he was referencing a conversation that they had had at the G20 Summit, where they specifically talked about the issues that he referenced," Sanders responded. "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."
"But the president specifically said that he received a phone call from the president of Mexico..." the reporter pressed.
"They were direct conversations, not phone calls," Sanders said.
"So he lied; he didn't receive a phone call," the reporter asked.
"I wouldn't say it's a lie. That's a pretty bold accusation," Sanders responded. "It's...the conversations took place. They just simply didn't take place over a phone call. He had them in person."