Michael Anton, the deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications at the NSC, echoed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement this morning, refuting an NBC story that pit the secretary of state against the president.
NBC reported on Wednesday that Tillerson was the verge of resigning last July “amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House” and had called the president a “moron.”
Tillerson denied the “erroneous” report in an unscheduled statement this morning, saying flatly, “I have never considered leaving this post.” But Anton fell short of denying that Tillerson called the president a “moron.” Instead, Anton said, the secretary of state merely stated that he wasn’t going to deal “with petty nonsense like that.”
During an interview on The Hugh Hewitt Show this morning, Anton called the story “wrong on so many levels,” but also seemed to suggest that part of what went wrong happened on the “public affairs side” of the White House and State Department.
“I have seen that story, and I will just say, you know, without going into how the sausage is made on the public affairs side, this is something that a lot of people in the administration, you know, in press shops at the State Department, and here at the White House, work hard on with the reporters,” he said.
“I know that Secretary Tillerson, through his spokesman, denied that absolutely,” Anton continued. “There were other things in the story that we pushed back on pretty hard. And in the end, it’s a give and take. And when reporters feel that they are, you know, so sometimes you just can’t fix things, even though you know they’re wrong, and the reporters went with it. So now, we’re dealing with it.”
PJ Media reached out to Anton for clarification, but has not heard back.
“Do you think the story is wrong?” Hewitt asked.
“I think the story is wrong on so many levels,” answered Anton. “I mean, there were so many things that they had that they came to us with that we were able to fix or get taken out, and other things that I’m still sure are wrong that we weren’t able to fix and get taken out. But that’s the nature of the beast, that it’s not the first time that it’s happened, and it won’t be the last.”
Hewitt then cut to the chase, asking, “Can you confirm or deny if the president was called a moron by the secretary of State?”
Anton answered that he wasn’t present at the meeting where it the comment was allegedly made, so he couldn’t know for sure, but said such a comment would run counter to Tillerson’s personality.
“Every time I have been in his presence, he has been extremely gracious. He doesn’t use that kind of language. He doesn’t really raise his voice or get angry. So I certainly don’t believe it,” Anton said.