'Petty nonsense': Tillerson slams claims he threatened to resign
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters he had “never considered leaving” his post and described the story about friction between him and President Donald Trump as “erroneous” and “petty nonsense.”
"The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as Secretary of State because I have never considered leaving," Tillerson said Wednesday morning, addressing the press at the State Department after an NBC News story accused him of calling Trump a "moron" and threatening to resign earlier this year, only to be talked out of it by Vice President Mike Pence.
The vice president likewise denied the claims in the NBC story.
"At no time did he and the secretary ever discuss the prospect of the secretary's resignation from the administration. Any reporting to the contrary is categorically false," said Jarrod Agen, Pence's spokesman.
The NBC story was “fake news” and was “totally refuted” by Tillerson and Pence, Trump tweeted shortly after the State Department press event, calling for the network to apologize “to America.”
Tillerson described himself committed to Trump’s 'America First' agenda, and said Trump was “breaking the mold” of what people thought was achievable in foreign policy.
“I am new to Washington. There are some that try to sow division, to tear people apart. I will not operate that way,” the secretary of state said.
Asked if he would confirm or deny the claim that he called Trump a "moron" following a tense meeting with national security officials this summer, Tillerson said he did not want to engage in "that kind of petty nonsense.”
NBC cited three anonymous officials to say that tensions between Trump and Tillerson came to a head around the time of Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts of America in July.
Just prior to Tillerson’s press appearance, Trump tweeted that NBC was “more dishonest than even CNN” 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
Later in the day, during his visit to Las Vegas, Trump said he had "full confidence" in Tillerson and branded the NBC story "fake news, totally phony."
While multiple news outlets continued to report that Tillerson did not deny NBC's claim that he'd called Trump a "moron," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert categorically denied it at the mid-afternoon press briefing.
"The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the United States," Nauert said. "He does not use that language to speak about anyone."