Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday he has never considered resigning his job and called "erroneous" an NBC News report that said he was so frustrated with President Trump that he called him a "moron" during a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon.
Tillerson took the unusual step of making a televised statement following an NBC News report Wednesday morning that he considered resigning after the meeting and had to be persuaded to stay by Vice President Pence.
Citing unnamed senior administration officials, NBC News said the "moron" comment came after Tillerson met with members of Trump's national security team and Cabinet officials.
The report said that while it's unclear whether Pence was aware of the incident, sources say he counseled Tillerson, giving him tips to ease tensions with the president.
Countering that report, Tillerson Wednesday morning said Pence "never had to persuade" him to keep his job.
"My commitment to the President is strong," Tillerson said, and he called the president a "smart" man who "demands results."
Tensions between Trump and Tillerson seemed apparent on Sunday, with Trump tweeting that Tillerson is "wasting his time" by trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” the president tweeted, using his nickname for North Korea's leader. “Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!”
Tillerson didn't specifically deny calling Trump a "moron," but said, "I'm not going to be part of the effort to divide this nation."
In July, amid reports claiming Tillerson was stepping down, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said he was “just taking a little time off."
There has been tension between Tillerson and the Trump administration over issues ranging from Iran policy to State Department personnel, according to several media reports. In June, the secretary of State unloaded on White House aide Johnny DeStefano over staffing issues.
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