State Department denies Tillerson called Trump a 'moron'

The secretary of state said his commitment to President Trump is strong.

ByABC News
October 4, 2017, 3:59 PM

— -- A State Department spokesperson denied that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ever called President Donald Trump a "moron" as reported earlier today.

"The secretary does not use that type of language. The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the United States. He does not use that language to speak about anyone ... he did not say that," spokesperson Heather Nauert said this afternoon.

Tillerson today reaffirmed his support for Trump, and said he never thought about stepping down from his post. But he would not answer if he ever used the word "moron" to describe Trump.

"I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that. This is what I don't understand about Washington. I'm not from here," he said. "That kind of petty nonsense — it is intended to do nothing but divide people."

A new NBC report claimed Tillerson called Trump a "moron" after a meeting with national security advisers in July. NBC is standing by its reporting.

The report also included that Vice President Mike Pence urged Tillerson not to resign. Tillerson said that was "erroneously reported."

"I have never considered leaving this post," Tillerson said.

During a visit with first responders today in Las Vegas after Tillerson's public statement, Trump said that he "very honored by his comments."

Tillerson said that his commitment to Trump and the administration "is as strong as it was" on his first day in office and that the president has "given voice to millions who felt completely abandoned to the political status quo."

Trump has reportedly been disappointed by Tillerson's performance and Tillerson has been equally frustrated with Trump.

On Oct. 1, referring to the missile threat posed by North Korea and using his nickname for its leader Kim Jong Un, Trump tweeted, "Our wonderful Secretary of State ... is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man… Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"

Trump posted the tweet one day after Tillerson said the administration was speaking to North Korea "directly, through our own channels."

Another time the two publicly disagreed on diplomatic strategies was in June, when Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. and China were pushing ahead on applying diplomatic pressure on North Korea. At the time, Trump tweeted that while he appreciated China's efforts, they have "not worked out."

Rumors of Tillerson's possible resignation in July were swatted down by the State Department. At the time, tensions between the White House and Tillerson were allegedly high over staffing at the State Department and Tillerson's ability to make decisions about the nation's foreign policy agency, senior administration officials told ABC News.