Paul Ryan Admits He Didn’t Realize Trump Was Insulting Him to His Face

Don’t count the House speaker’s humiliation as one of the “tragedies” he’s avoided in the Trump administration.

Alex Edelman/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

It’s safe to assume that referring to a 48-year-old man as “boy scout” within a professional context is a less-than-subtle insult, particularly if it’s said by one’s superior.

But that seemingly obvious premise appears to have been lost on House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose boss, President Donald Trump, made a habit of calling him “boy scout” to his face. “I thought it was a compliment,” the Wisconsin Republican recently admitted to Mark Leibovich for a New York Times Magazine profile.

It only became apparent to Ryan that Trump was using the nickname disparagingly when the president announced that as a reward for Ryan’s leadership over the first several successful passages of Republican-led bills last year, he would no longer refer to him that way. 

“So I guess he meant it as an insult all along,” he told Leibovich. “I didn’t realize.”

Ryan went on to assert that he’s helped avoid unspecified “tragedies” in the Trump administration. It’s clear from the “boy scout” anecdote, however, that his own humiliation by the president isn’t one of them.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend