Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a press conference on Wednesday to dispel rumors that he is considering leaving his post as the nation’s top diplomatic official.
The hastily called press conference lasted just over seven minutes. Speaking from the Treaty Room at the State Department, Tillerson said he has never considered leaving his job as Secretary of State.
“While I’m new to Washington, I have learned that there is some who try to sow dissention to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart in an effort to undermine President Trump’s own agenda. I do not and I will not operate that way. And the same applies to everyone here on my team at the State Department,” he said.
NBC News reported that Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, called Trump a “moron” this summer after he gave a speech to the Boy Scouts of America:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House, according to multiple senior administration officials who were aware of the situation at the time.
The tensions came to a head around the time President Donald Trump delivered a politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led, the officials said.
Just days earlier, Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a “moron,” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials familiar with the incident.
During Wednesday’s press conference a reporter asked the Secretary of State about the alleged comment. “Can you address the main headline of this story that you called the president a moron?” the reporter asked.
“I’m just, I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” Tillerson said. “I mean, this is what I don’t understand about Washington. Again, I’m not from this place but the places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense. And it is intended to do nothing but divide people and I’m just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.”
Minutes after Tillerson spoke, Trump tweeted:
Tillerson began his remarks by praising Trump, who has been in office for nine months, and made clear he wanted to dispel any news reports that he was considering resigning from his job:
“There were some news reports this morning that I want to address. First, my commitment to the success of the president and our country is as strong as it was the day I accepted his offer to serve as Secretary of State.
President Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda has given voice to millions who felt completely abandoned by the political status quo and who felt their interests came second to those of other countries.
President Trump’s foreign policy goals break the mold of what people traditionally think is achievable on behalf of our country.
We’re finding new ways to govern that deliver new victories. Our job now is to achieve results on behalf of America and we are doing that.”
Tillerson added: “There is much to be done and we’re just getting started.”
As for whether Vice President Mike Pence asked him to remain on the job, Tillerson shot down that report. “The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as Secretary of State because I have never considered leaving this post,” he said.
Tillerson made news recently when asked about Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an Aug. 12 rally by white supremacists turned deadly. Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest.
Tillerson responded with this statement:
“We express America’s values from the State Department. We represent the American people, we represent America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over, and that message has never changed,” Tillerson said, according to POLITICO. “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Tillerson was asked if he was trying to separate himself from Trump’s comments. “The president speaks for himself, Chris.”
Tillerson said on Wednesday that he will remain at the helm of the State Department unless the president asks him to step down.