State Secretary Rex Tillerson made an unexpected statement to refute media reports alleging he called the president a “moron,” but then refused to deny making the remark.
NBC News reported Wednesday that Tillerson considered resigning from his position after repeatedly clashing with the White House. According to the report, Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after a meeting at the Pentagon with Trump’s national security team.
Officials told NBC that Vice President Mike Pence “counseled” Tillerson on “ways to ease tensions with Trump,” urging him to be “respectful of the president.”
According to the report, John Kelly, then the Homeland Security Secretary, and Defense Secretary James Mattis “begged” Tillerson to stay.
Tillerson made an unscheduled statement Wednesday at the State Department, denying that he intended to quit but refused to deny calling Trump a “moron.”
“The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post,” he told reporters.
Tillerson said Trump “loves this country. He puts Americans and America First. He’s smart.”
— Department of State (@StateDept) October 4, 2017
When asked by a reporter about the “moron” remark, Tillerson replied, “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.”
“The places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense,” he added, not denying the comment. “I’m just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.”
Reporter: The report says you called Trump a "moron"
— CNN (@CNN) October 4, 2017
Trump lashed out on Twitter after the statement, gloating that the NBC News article “has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson.”
“It is #FakeNews,” he said. “They should issue an apology to AMERICA!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2017
America, not that eager for an apology from NBC News, instead noticed that Tillerson didn’t “totally refute” all the parts of the story.
Tillerson was asked point blank if he called Trump a moron. He refused to answer. NBC stands by its reporting. You do the math. https://t.co/YPhgoUeSLx
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) October 4, 2017
So tldr is Tillerson went out to deny the NBC story, then ended up confirming it by conspicuous evasion in the questions.
— Pwn ██ ██ ███ (b)(5) (@pwnallthethings) October 4, 2017
Shorter Tillerson: I’m committed to working for this moron.
— Anthony De Rosa 🗽 (@Anthony) October 4, 2017
TRUMP: Rex is here to say that I’m not a moron. (*nudges him*) Tell them.
— Daniel Lin (@danwlin) October 4, 2017
I think Rex Tillerson just made the most memorable hostage video since Patty Hearst. Amazing.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) October 4, 2017
Trump was OK with it because Tillerson called him "The biggest moron you've ever seen, world-class, everyone knows that."
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) October 4, 2017