"I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests," Trump responded
. "And I can tell you who is going to win."
That comment, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, was a joke.
"He wasn't questioning the secretary of state's intelligence," she said during the daily press briefing Tuesday. "He made a joke. Maybe you guys should get a sense of humor and try it sometime. He simply made a joke."
- when he told police officers to be "rough" with suspects
- when he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling US diplomats from Russia
- when he suggested that former President Barack Obama was literally the founder of ISIS
- when he asked Russia to hack Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's emails
Here's the thing: You could be forgiven for not getting the Tillerson IQ joke. Why? Because Trump has repeatedly referenced his high IQ -- and others' allegedly low IQs -- for the last four years
. He tweets about it. He talks about it on the campaign trail. He is uniquely obsessed with IQs.
All of which means that it's very, very likely that Trump wasn't joking about matching his IQ against Tillerson's. (Sidebar: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, when asked about Tillerson's IQ, offered this: "It's high. Anyone who can put things together, you know, and is an engineer, it's high.")
What we know of Trump is that nothing bothers him more than when people who work for him either (a) get better press than he does, or (b) undermine him in some way, shape or form.
Trump has previously insisted there was absolutely nothing to the Tillerson reporting. Now he's saying it's probably not true but, in the event it is true, he wants everyone to know that he is much smarter than his secretary of state. After all, who's the President and who's just a Cabinet member. Amirite???
(A source close to the White House and familiar with the President's reaction, by the way, told CNN's Jim Acosta that Trump was most definitely not joking when he suggested he and Tillerson compare IQ tests. "They knew he was pissed that people found out Tillerson called him a moron and he spouted off about the IQ test because he was mad. The White House knows it was not a joke," the source said).
Now, hiding behind the "he was joking" line may be the best spin Sanders can put on the tensions between Trump and Tillerson.
But scolding the media for missing the joke ignores a whole lot of context when it comes to the President and just how seriously he takes his own intelligence quotient.