WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not refer to President Donald Trump as a moron in a private conversation, the State Department’s spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
“The secretary does not use that type of language. The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the United States. He does not use that language to speak about anyone. He did not say that,” Heather Nauert said in a press conference.
Earlier Wednesday, Tillerson denied that he had considered stepping down over the summer due to differences with the White House, telling the press that “there’s never been a consideration in my mind” about resigning.
The top US diplomat, however, did not confirm or deny whether he had insulted Trump in private, saying that he would not discuss “petty nonsense” and that Trump was “smart.”
NBC News reported on Wednesday that Tillerson had called President Donald Trump a “moron” after a meeting at the Pentagon on July 20.
Over the weekend, Trump and his secretary of state appeared to be at odds over how to handle the North Korean nuclear threat.
Tillerson said in a press conference Saturday in Beijing that the US had established direct channels with the secretive Asian nation and was seeking to calm tensions related to its defiant pursuit of a nuclear program.
But Trump said on Sunday those attempts would not be worth pursuing.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump said in a Twitter post, referring to North Korea’s leader. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
Trump, for his part, ripped NBC News on Wednesday over the report about the alleged rift with Tillerson.
“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!” Trump tweeted.