Tillerson says he never planned to quit, won’t discuss report he called Trump a 'moron'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he has never considered leaving his position and affirmed his commitment to President Trump’s agenda in a statement Wednesday morning.

Tillerson was responding to an NBC News report that Vice President Pence had to talk him out of resigning following Trump’s rambling, highly politicized speech to a gathering of Boy Scouts this summer. Tillerson is a former national president of the organization.

The NBC report also said that after the speech Tillerson called 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,” said Tillerson.

When asked if the claim that he had almost resigned was the only thing he considered to be erroneous in the report, Tillerson said it was the most important part. When asked specifically if he had called the president a moron, Tillerson did not deny it, saying, “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.”

After Tillerson’s statement, CNN said it had confirmed through its own sources the “moron” remark, and MSNBC reporter Stephanie Rule elaborated that the exact phrase Tillerson used was “f***ing moron.” Hours after Tillerson’s remarks, a State Department spokeswoman issued a statement saying that the secretary had not called Trump a moron and “does not use that language.”

Last week, after Tillerson said in an interview that the U.S. had back-channel communications with North Korea, Trump tweeted that his “wonderful” secretary of state was wasting his time talking to Pyongyang.

In an interview earlier this year, Tillerson said that he never wanted the job as secretary of state and didn’t seek the post.

“My wife told me I’m supposed to do this,” said the former ExxonMobil CEO when asked why he had accepted the position as America’s top diplomat.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump confer during a Sept 20 U.N. lunch. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Trump confer during a Sept 20 U.N. lunch. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo)

Trump, who is flying to Las Vegas in the wake of the mass shooting there, spent the morning attacking NBC and “fake news” and demanding an apology.

Most of Tillerson’s remarks consisted of what he considered the foreign policy successes of the Trump administration and compliments of the president.

“He loves this country,” said Tillerson of Trump. “He puts Americans and America first. He’s smart, he demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they’ve done the job he’s asked them to do. Accountability is one of the bedrock values the president and I share.”

Tillerson also criticized the petty nature of Washington, which he said was very different from his experience in the private sector.

There are currently two executive branch departments without permanent heads following John Kelly’s move from Homeland Security chief to White House chief of staff in July and Tom Price’s recent resignation as Health and Human Services secretary.