The Slatest

Rex Tillerson Holds Press Conference to Call Trump “Smart” but Doesn’t Deny He Also Called Him a Moron

NBC reported Wednesday morning that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was close to resigning in July and that he once referred to Donald Trump as a “moron” in front of several officials at the Pentagon:

Tillerson stunned a handful of senior administration officials when he called the president a “moron” after a tense two-hour long meeting in a secure room at the Pentagon called “The Tank,” according to three officials who were present or briefed on the incident. The July 20 meeting came a day after a meeting in the White House Situation Room on Afghanistan policy where Trump rattled his national security advisers by suggesting he might fire the top U.S. commander of the war and comparing the decision-making process on troop levels to the renovation of a high-end New York restaurant, according to participants in the meeting.

Tillerson held an impromptu press conference at the State Deparment just before 11 a.m. to address NBC’s report. He insisted that his “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” and specifically denied that he’d considered resigning but didn’t deny that he’d referred to the president of America as a dumb, stupid moron:

Q: Can you address the main headline, that you called the president a moron?

A: I won’t deal with petty stuff like that. This is what I don’t understand about Washington—again, I’m not from this place. But the places I come from we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense. And it is intended to do nothing but divide people, and I’m just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.

Meanwhile, though, CNN says it’s confirmed NBC’s report about the Moron Incident. Here’s what the network’s Kaitlan Collins just said on air:

We have confirmed that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who we just heard from there, did refer to the president as a moron this summer. I’m told by sources from the White House that the president was aware about this remark, but that the situation has gotten worse now that it’s become so public after NBC News first reported it this morning.

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle—one of the co-authors of NBC’s piece—has elaborated further:

Well! Tillerson did say at one point during his remarks, though, that Trump “is smart,” so there’s that.

Oh, and here’s more about the time that Trump explained that the war in Afghanistan is like the renovation of Manhattan’s 21 Club restaurant.