Tillerson won't say if he called Trump a 'moron'

Tapper to Tillerson: Did you call Trump a moron?
Tapper to Tillerson: Did you call Trump a moron?

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Tapper to Tillerson: Did you call Trump a moron? 02:19

Story highlights

  • Tillerson told host Jake Tapper that he maintains a close and candid relationship with Trump
  • Pressed repeatedly on the subject by Tapper on Sunday, Tillerson refused to budge

Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday again refused to say whether he called President Donald Trump a "moron" following a meeting at the Pentagon this past summer.

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Tillerson told anchor Jake Tapper that he maintains a close and candid relationship with Trump, despite reports indicating Tillerson's frustrations with the commander in chief.
"Jake, as I indicated earlier when I was asked about that, I'm not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff," Tillerson said. "I mean, this is a town that seems to relish in gossip, rumor and innuendo. And they feed on it. They feed on it in a very destructive way. I don't work that way and I don't feel that way."
    Tillerson's comments come after reports indicated that Trump's July 20 meeting at the Pentagon was a "difficult and tense" session. It was after that session that Tillerson, in a private conversation with fellow US officials, exasperatedly called the President a "moron," a comment that sparked new questions about the two men's relationship. NBC first reported the remark.
    The broad-reaching session, held inside the secure conference room known as the "tank," came a day after a White House situation room meeting on Afghanistan.
    Pressed repeatedly on the subject by Tapper on Sunday, Tillerson refused to budge.
    "As I said, Jake, I'm not playing," he said, adding, "These are the games of Washington. These are the destructive games of this town. They're not helpful to anyone. And so my position is: I'm not playing ... You want to make a game out of it? I'm not playing."
    When asked at a State Department news conference earlier this month whether he'd ever called Trump a "moron," Tillerson did not respond directly.
    "The places I come from, we don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense," Tillerson said then. "I'm just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration."
    Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman, has denied Tillerson ever called the President a "moron."
    The secretary also says he's committed to executing the President's objectives, despite Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker's comments suggesting Trump's foreign policy statements, like the ones he's posted on Twitter, "castrate" the secretary's diplomatic efforts.
    "I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man..." Trump said on Twitter.
    He continued, "...Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"
    Corker told The Washington Post in an interview last week that Trump's public statements on foreign policy undercut his secretary of state -- creating "binary" scenarios for the United States on the world stage.
    But Tillerson said suggestions that he's been undermined have no basis in fact.
    "I checked," he told Tapper. "I'm fully intact."