Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe West must deter aggression from tyrants better than it did last century Hillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau MORE on Wednesday denied he has ever considered resigning from his post, pushing back on what he called an “erroneous” news report that he was on the verge of quitting.
"The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of State because I have never considered leaving," he said at the State Department.
Tillerson delivered the impromptu remarks after NBC News reported he nearly resigned over the summer amid fierce policy disputes with the White House. Vice President Pence reportedly intervened to calm tensions.
Tillerson refused to deny a claim in the report that he called President Trump a "moron" following a tense meeting with national security officials over the summer.
The top diplomat said he did not want to “deal with petty stuff like that.”
“The places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense,” he said. “I’m just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.”
The bombshell report renewed talk that Tillerson stands on shaky ground inside the Trump administration, chatter that he tried to tamp down in his statement to reporters.
“He loves this country," Tillerson said of the president. "He puts Americans and America first ... He’s smart and he demands results."
NBC News reported tensions between Tillerson and Trump reached a boiling point months ago after the president gave a politicized speech to a gathering of Boy Scouts. Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, used to lead the organization and was reportedly disgusted by Trump's remarks.
According to three anonymous officials who spoke to NBC, Tillerson called Trump a “moron” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon amid a heated internal debate over the administration’s Afghanistan policy.
Trump, who was flying on Air Force One en route to Las Vegas to meet with victims' families and first responders in the wake of a mass shooting there on Sunday, appeared to back Tillerson.
“The @NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence. It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!” he tweeted minutes after the secretary of State finished his remarks.
Tillerson said he has not spoken to Trump since the report was published.
The story highlighted months of disagreements between Tillerson and the White House over personnel decisions at the State Department and differences with Trump on foreign policy.
Trump over the weekend publicly contradicted Tillerson on North Korea. He tweeted the top diplomat was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done,” the president added.
The tweets came after Tillerson said the U.S. was in direct contact with North Korean representatives in an effort to lower tensions sparked by the burgeoning nuclear crisis.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated Wednesday the president still has confidence in Tillerson.
“As we've said many times before, if the president doesn't have confidence in somebody, they will no longer be in their position,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One.
—This report was updated at 12:50 p.m.