During Wednesday’s White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was confronted by ABC News’ Cecilia Vega about whether President Trump had lied when he boasted about receiving phone calls from the President of Mexico and the head of the Boy Scouts, claims which have since been proven to be false.
The president recently said that he received a phone call from the leader of the Boy Scouts of America praising him for giving “the greatest speech” the organization ever heard at its national gathering last week. Trump also claimed to have received a phone call from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto praising his policies cracking down on illegal immigration into the U.S. But both leaders have denied calling the president to praise him.
“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?” Vega asked Sanders. “Did he lie?”
Sanders claimed that Trump did not lie, but instead he had misspoke on both counts.
“So he lied?” Vega fired back.
“It wasn’t a lie,” the press secretary responded. “That’s pretty bold accusation. It’s — the conversations took place. They just simply didn’t take place over a phone call. He had them in person.”
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Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week that the head of the Boy Scouts had called him to thank him for a speech last week that ignited a firestorm of controversy.
“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, according to a transcript of the interview published by Politico.
“We are unaware of any such call,” the Boy Scouts responded in a statement to the L.A. Times. It specified that neither of the organization’s two top leaders — President Randall Stephenson and Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh — had placed such a call.
Michael Surbaugh, leader of the Boy Scouts of America, apologized after Trump attacked his political enemies in a speech to the national gathering of Boy Scouts, saying that the group “sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.”
“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,” Surbaugh said. “That was never our intent.”
The Mexican government also fired back at President Trump’s claim that the President of Mexico had called to compliment the White House’s immigration policy, adding that President Peña Nieto has not contacted Trump in weeks.
But at a Cabinet meeting earlier this week, Trump said that “even the president of Mexico called me” to praise his immigration policy.
“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,” Trump said.
Sanders was also asked on Wednesday whether there are “circumstances where it’s appropriate to lie from the podium.”
“Absolutely not,” she said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to lie from the podium or any other place. … My job is to communicate the president’s agenda, the president’s message and answer your questions on that as best that I can, as honestly as I can, and be as transparent as I can possibly be at any given moment.”