Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, has a long history with the Boy Scouts of America. Tillerson was President of the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012, during the landmark Oregon Boy Scout sex abuse trial involving Kerry Lewis. That trial resulted in a $19.9 million verdict for the Plaintiff.
I was one of the trial lawyers representing Lewis during his trial and the subsequent Oregon Supreme Court case that ordered the Boy Scouts to publicly release over 1,200 “Ineligible Volunteer Files” BSA had created on known sexual abusers within the organization. Those files and others are still available online.
During his term as president of the Boy Scouts, Tillerson never talked about the sexual abuse scandal or the fraud claims we have successfully brought on behalf of former Scouts who were sexually exploited by adult Scout volunteers.
The Daily Beast reports, “During Tillerson’s time as president, the BSA instituted mandatory reporting of sexual abuse claims to authorities—but Tillerson never spoke publicly about the pedophilia scandal, nor offered an official apology to any its victims. He remains in a leadership role in the organization to this day.”
One courageous survivor of Boy Scout sexual abuse, Matt Stewart, spoke to The Daily Beast about his thoughts on Tillerson’s lack of leadership:
As president of the Boy Scouts and a longtime participant in the Boy Scouts, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson has served for decades in leadership roles. Rex Tillerson should have had a moral obligation to say something about sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts, and he did not. . . Tillerson either knew or should have known the Boy Scouts confidential files existed. In his role as president, he should have publicly apologized for the Boy Scouts’ role in this cover-up. The Boy Scouts have said they were proactive against childhood sex abuse when clearly their actions have shown the opposite. They have fought every abuse claim by their teams of attorneys. Their actions speak louder than their words. The organization is not to be trusted. Tillerson’s leadership involvement should have included speaking out on this topic, rather than behaving like all other past presidents: doing nothing to apologize to the thousands of children who were raped over decades.
As a sex abuse trial lawyer, I’ve witnessed the cover-ups and denials of organizations that put their reputations above accountability. When we were successful in obtaining the Ineligible Volunteer Files from the Boy Scouts in the Kerry Lewis case, the files showed just such a cover-up by America’s most trusted youth serving organization.
As BSA President, Tillerson should have stepped up then, taken responsibility for BSA’s history of sex abuse, and found a way to provide justice to the thousands of boys, now adults, who were exploited and molested when they were children in Scouting.