Updated at 1:29 p.m. ET
Rex Tillerson denied a report out early Wednesday that he considered resigning as secretary of state, but he did not deny another detail in the report — that he called President Trump a “moron.”
“I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” Tillerson said in an impromptu statement at the State Department that he said was intended to knock down “erroneously reported” details in an NBC News report that he considered stepping down after a hotly political speech Trump made before the Boy Scouts over the summer.
He added that the story was “intended to divide” and that he was “not going to deal with petty nonsense.”
Tillerson seemed to make the statement for an audience of one, to reaffirm his commitment to Trump and his agenda.
“I have never considered leaving this post,” Tillerson said, later adding, “There’s never been a consideration in my mind to leave.” He also said his “commitment is as strong as it was the day I accepted his [Trump’s] offer as secretary of state.”
And he heaped praise on the president, who he was certain to call “smart.”
“He loves his country,” Tillerson said. “He puts Americans and America first. He’s smart. He demands result wherever he goes, and he holds those around him accountable for whether they’ve done the job he’s asked them to do.”
He denied details in the NBC account that Vice President Pence had to intervene to convince him not to resign.
Minutes before Tillerson’s announcement, Trump had disputed NBC’s account, calling it “fake news” and a “disgrace to good reporting.”
NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN. They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2017
On Sunday, Trump seemed to undermine Tillerson’s efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the situation in North Korea by telling him to “save your energy.”
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Tillerson heaped praise on the president on Wednesday. “Trump’s foreign-policy goals break the mold of what people traditionally think is achievable,” the former ExxonMobil CEO said, adding, “Our job is now to achieve results on behalf of America, and we are doing that.”
He said he will serve as long as Trump wants him in this role.
“I’m new in Washington,” Tillerson said. “I have learned there are some who try to sow dissension to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart in an effort to undermine President Trump’s own agenda. … [He’s] doing great things for the United States of America to make America great again.”
Meanwhile, aboard Air Force One, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, per NPR’s Tamara Keith, Tillerson did not directly address the “moron” comment, because he was “not getting into the weeds.”
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