President Donald Trump veered from his prepared remarks at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree on Monday to press Senate Republicans to move forward with a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and joked he would fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price if the effort fails.
Trump began his remarks to the Boy Scout summit in Glen Jean, West Virginia, by claiming he wouldn’t talk about politics, but went off-script several times to comment on the GOP Senate health care bill and to chastise the “fake news” media for coverage of his administration. He also recounted his election victory over Hillary Clinton, again boasting that most pundits didn’t predict his win.
The speech quickly turned political after Trump introduced several members of his Cabinet who are former scouts, including Price.
“By the way, you’re going to get the votes?” he asked Price. “He better get ’em. He better get ’em. Ah, he better — otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired!’”
Trump also pressed Price to win the support of West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), who has expressed skepticism of the GOP plan due to its drastic cuts to Medicaid. A few hours earlier, Trump claimed Senate Republicans had “not done their job in ending the Obamacare nightmare.”
“He’d better get Senator Capito to vote for it,” the president said of Price.
’We could really use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” Trump told the crowd of Scouts.
The president also turned to one of his favorite refrains from the campaign trail: complaining that the media isn’t accurately representing the size of his audience.
“This is a lot of people,” Trump said. “Turn those cameras back there, please. ... What do you think the chances are that this incredible massive crowd, record-setting, is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero? The fake media will say ‘President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.’ That is some crowd. Fake media, fake news.”
CNN, meanwhile, was airing footage of the crowd.
It’s the second time in three days Trump has used a traditionally non-political event to press his own agenda. On Saturday, he asked the crowd at the official commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier in Norfolk, Virginia, including military personnel, to call their members of Congress to pass his budget.
Following Trump’s speech, The Boy Scouts of America released a statement affirming its non-partisan status:
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the National Scout Jamboree is annual. A previous version of this story also misstated the location of the event.