News & Politics

NBC News: 'Tillerson Called Trump a 'Moron,' Threatened to Resign'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks on as President Donald Trump speaks at a luncheon with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

All is not well in Trumpland. According to NBC, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer. He only changed his mind when Vice President Mike Pence personally intervened.

NBC explains:

The tensions came to a head around the time President Donald Trump delivered a politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led, the officials said.

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.

Aside from Pence, NBC says, other top administration officials also contacted Tillerson and “urged him to remain in the job at least until the end of the year.” Those officials believed, NBC continues, that the administration wouldn’t have been able to deal with “the fallout from a Cabinet secretary of his stature departing within the first year of Trump’s presidency.”

Shortly after NBC published its report, President Trump took to Twitter to share his thoughts on it. As usual, he didn’t mince words:

In a sign that the report caused distress in the White House, Tillerson actually convened a press conference in which he personally refuted NBC’s claims. Tillerson refused to address “petty stuff” like the “moron” claim, and said he did not even think about resigning. He went on to praise Trump’s foreign policy agenda and his love for his country, saying:

He loves this country. He puts Americans and America first. He’s smart.

As for Pence’s supposed intervention to keep Tillerson on board, Tillerson said no such thing happened:

My commitment to the success of our president and our country is as strong as it was the day I accepted his offer to serve as secretary of state. … There is much to be done, and we’re just getting started. The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post.

After Tillerson’s press conference, Trump took to Twitter to demand an apology from NBC News:

Tillerson and Trump’s relationship has been rocky from the get-go. Although both men are former businessmen, Tillerson is more of a traditional Republican elite, whereas Trump positioned himself as a nationalist-populist during the presidential campaign. The two have reportedly butted heads on a host of issues. Their most public spat came after Trump responded to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. When asked, Tillerson then told reporters that the president didn’t talk for the nation (or even for the administration), but only for himself.