WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, in a hastily convened news conference on Wednesday, denied that he had ever considered resigning and dismissed an NBC News article reporting that he had called President Trump a “moron.”
Mr. Tillerson said that Vice President Mike Pence had never had to persuade him to remain as secretary of state, as the NBC News story had reported, “because I have never considered leaving this post.”
Mr. Tillerson refused to address whether he had called the president a “moron.”
“I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” he said, his voice seeming to shake with anger. “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.”
Mr. Tillerson is a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil.
Mr. Tillerson’s tenure has been dogged for months by reports of a serious rift between himself and the president, rumors that have been fed by repeated Twitter posts by the president that criticize or undercut Mr. Tillerson’s positions.
But those rumors reached a fevered pitch on Wednesday with the NBC News story. While Mr. Tillerson has placidly declared before that he had no intention of leaving his post, he decided on Wednesday that he needed to meet the reports head-on.