Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke from the State Department Oct. 4 to dispel a rumor that he wanted to leave his post amid tensions this summer.
The rumor was first reported by NBC and was later picked up and reported by various other outlets. The tensions NBC referred to in their reporting was the time following the politicized July speech President Donald Trump delivered to the Boy Scouts of America -- an organization Tillerson once led.
Tillerson is said to have openly belittled the president, referring to him as a “moron” at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three unnamed officials familiar with the incident, reported NBC.
Retired Gen. John Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have been Tillerson’s strongest allies in the cabinet, according to NBC. In late July, “they did beg him to stay,” an unnamed senior administration official said to NBC. “They just wanted stability.”
Tillerson's top State Department spokesman, R.C. Hammond, said Tillerson did not consider quitting this past summer, reports NBC. He also denied that Tillerson called Trump a “moron.” Hammond said he was unaware of the details of Tillerson’s meetings with Pence.
Hammond added that he wouldn’t characterize the secretary’s conversations with Mattis or Kelly as attempts to convince Tillerson to stay in his position.
This reporting from NBC comes on the toes of Trump's recent criticism of Tillerson's foreign policy efforts with North Korea.
Trump had stated that Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. However, in Tillerson's address to reporters Oct. 4, he expressed his respect for at least one of Trump's policies.
”President Trump’s foreign policy goals break the mold of what people traditionally think is achievable on behalf of our country. We’re finding new ways to govern that deliver new victories," Tillerson said.
Mattis has denied any tensions between Trump and Tillerson over their alleged split, most recently over North Korea, reports Reuters.
Trump tweeted shortly before Tillerson spoke to reporters, stating: "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!”
Tillerson then made bold statements in a meeting with reporters.
“This is what I don’t understand about Washington ... 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,” Tillerson said.
Aaron David Miller, an analyst at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, called the address from the secretary of state -- and particularly comments about the president -- stunning and unprecedented from someone in his position, reports Reuters.