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Amid Reports He Called Trump a Moron, Rex Tillerson Announces He’s Not Resigning

A weird news story gets weirder.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answers questions after delivering a statement at the State Department October 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, a story from NBC News began circulating that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—the Texan who left his role as CEO of ExxonMobil to take the position in the Trump administration—had grown furious with President Trump over the summer. The tensions had built, the network reported, and culminated after Trump’s heavily political speech in front of the Boy Scouts of America. Tillerson, according to the report, was set to resign before Vice President Mike Pence directly intervened:

Just days earlier, Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a “moron,” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials familiar with the incident.

While it’s unclear if he was aware of the incident, Vice President Mike Pence counseled Tillerson, who is fourth in line to the presidency, on ways to ease tensions with Trump, and other top administration officials urged him to remain in the job at least until the end of the year, officials said.

As has become standard reporting procedure amid an administration beset with leaks, there are no named sources in the NBC report, instead relying on multiple accounts from officials who spoke to the network on background. But having no one to specifically refute except for a mainstream news organization gave Tillerson a lot of space to deny the story. That’s exactly what he did.

Initially, he denied the story via spokesperson R.C. Hammond, whom NBC contacted on behalf of Tillerson. Hammond, in his statement, included an unusual detail; while he insisted that Tillerson never considered offering his resignation or called Trump a “moron,” he noted that he was aware of one meeting between Pence and Tillerson. Hammond claimed that the vice president had sought Tillerson’s counsel on whether U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley “was helpful to the administration.”

Following the story’s publication on Wednesday morning, Tillerson announced an impromptu press conference to address the report. Head of the press conference, rumors swirled that Tillerson would announce his resignation. He did not. Instead, he once more denied that he’d ever considered resigning. He spoke for about ten minutes, and took only a handful of questions. When asked if he did, in fact, call the President of the United States a “moron,” Tillerson declined the opportunity to deny the report, saying instead that he wasn’t “going to deal with petty stuff like that.” He then told the press that the president is “smart.”

It was a strange couple of hours for the State Department and the man who heads it. Following Tillerson’s statements, President Trump tweeted his appreciation for the gesture.

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  • Jorge Jaramillo

    He should have just hauled off and admitted it and go out in a blaze of glory. His diplomatic efforts have been undermind and blindsided by the Orange and has finally realized that he is a moron.

    • anonyfool

      None of those guys has the spine to do it.

  • anonyfool

    I have an energy item that sort of includes Texas before the energy column got it, Rick Perry is proposing that we subsidize nuclear and coal plants to ensure the *integrity* of the power grid.

    • neilmoyer

      Just more corporate socialism from the TAMU cheerleader…


    Don’t you just love who Trump’s appointees have to demonstrate their loyalty and do a little kowtowing to him on a periodic basis? The latest being Sec. of State Rex Tillerson yesterday…..I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this compulsion to prostrate yourself (literally or figuratively) before the Great One since the last days of the Empire of China or Stalinist Russia.

  • neilmoyer

    Really?? He called Trump a “f**king moron”!! The adjective. is true, too…

    • neilmoyer

      And, am wondering how long someone in XOM’s management would have lasted under Tillerson if this same opinion were expressed??

  • José

    Fortunately there are many others of us who will do what Tillerson won’t.

  • Fred Grosso

    If Rex did call Donald a moron it would be relevant to know the reason. If he did’t the media has messed up. But if he did I would be disappointed that he did so for a petty reason. Come on Rex put it out there. Donald and the American public need to be educated.

  • Don Baker

    There is no evidence he called Trump a moron. All we have is breathless suspect reports from the liars in our fake news media. He would not address that with the jackals of our fake news media for the same reason I would not. He does not debate children.