US secretary of state says Trump is 'smart' but doesn't deny calling him a 'moron' in wild press conference

Rex Tillerson. Photo: Eice Piermont/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied news reports that said he considered leaving the administration during an unusual press briefing on Wednesday morning.

In a short statement, Tillerson said that a report that he had openly criticised President Donald Trump after a meeting with his national security team and Cabinet officials at the Pentagon were “petty” and characterised it as an attempt by the media and others to undermine the administration.

“I’m not gonna deal with petty stuff like that,” he said in response to a question about an NBC News report that he called Trump a “moron.”

“The places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense and it’s intended to do nothing but divide people. And I’m not going to be part of this effort to divide the administration.”

He more specifically denied reports that he had to be convinced by Vice President Mike Pence to remain in his position last summer.

“The vice president has never had to persuade me to stay as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post,” he said. “There’s never been a consideration in my mind to leave.”

Tillerson went on to praise Trump, the administration more broadly, and his colleagues at the State Department.

“This administration will keep moving forward as one team with one mission doing great things for the United States of America to make America great again,” he concluded.

Both before and after Tillerson’s press conference, Trump tweeted slamming the NBC report.

“NBC news is #FakeNews and more dishonest than even CNN,” Trump tweeted before Tillerson spoke. “They are a disgrace to good reporting. No wonder their news ratings are way down!”

After the press conference, Trump sent another tweet saying Tillerson denied the NBC report.

“The @NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence,” he tweeted. “It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!”

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