It's been nothing but bad news between Trump and Tillerson lately. Multiple reports have surfaced that the former Exxon CEO was so mad at his boss over the past few months that he called him a "moron" and had to be talked out of resigning.
NBC News reported on Wednesday that three officials familiar with the incident said Tillerson was infuriated with the president during the summer over the subject of North Korea — specifically, how Trump has repeatedly undermined Tillerson's own attempts at diplomacy. After a July 20 Pentagon meeting of top Cabinet and defense officials, Tillerson reportedly called the president a "moron."
Defense Secretary James Mattis and then-Homeland Security Secretary (now Chief of Staff) John Kelly talked Tillerson down, "begging him to stay" because "they just wanted stability" in the White House according to the NBC report.
Tillerson also took umbrage with a speech Trump made before a crowd of Boy Scouts in July. Tillerson, who served as the national president of the Boy Scouts from 2010 to 2012, found Trump's politics-focused speech wholly inappropriate.
Vice President Mike Pence, who has previously played peacemaker between Trump and cabinet officials such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, convinced Tillerson not to resign through a "pep talk."
Tillerson issued a statement a few hours later denying the allegation. "My commitment to the success of our president and our country is as strong as it was the day I accepted his offer to serve as secretary of state," he said. "The vice president has never had to persuade me to stay secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post."
Tillerson praised Trump as well in his statement, saying that the iconoclastic magnate "loves his country. He puts America and Americans first. He's smart, he demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they've done what he tries to do."
He also called the report an "attempt to sow dissension." However, Tillerson never denied that he called Trump a "moron." When asked by the press if he said that, Tillerson said "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that… the places I come from, we don't deal with that petty nonsense."
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert explicitly denied that Tillerson had made the "moron" comment, and that Tillerson did not apologize to the president because no apology was needed.
Trump also tweeted about the NBC story, calling it "Fake News" that had been "totally refuted" and echoed the sentiments Wednesday afternoon while speaking with first responders to Sunday night's mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Wow, so many Fake News stories today. No matter what I do or say, they will not write or speak truth. The Fake News Media is out of control!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2017
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2017
Tillerson, who had no experience as a diplomat or a politician when he took his job as Secretary of State, has increasingly chafed at the president's handling of foreign affairs. For instance, Tillerson has attempted diplomatic solutions to the current stand-off with North Korea, while Trump has publicly stated that Tillerson is "wasting his time trying to negotiate" with Pyongyang.
Tillerson also has reportedly pushed for Congress to declare Iran compliant with the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened not to do. Additionally, Tillerson reportedly wanted to stay in the Paris Climate Accord that Trump has announced his intention to exit.
The still-young Trump presidency has seen many high profile resignations, such as former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and most recently former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.