The president of the United States is still furious at his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for reportedly calling him a “moron” or, upon further reporting, a “fucking moron.” And he won’t stop venting to friends and senior aides about the news outlet that broke the story.
In yet another sign of how deeply NBC News has managed to get under his skin, Donald Trump has, in recent days, taken to saying that the network is “run by morons,” two sources who have spoken to the president told The Daily Beast.
Trump regularly complains during the day and evenings about NBC as “fake” and out to “get” him in the “same way he [recently] did with CNN,” according to one White House official.
The president has a long-running feud with NBC, in general. But his eagerness to reappropriate Tillerson’s reported epithet against the Peacock Network is not just driven by disgust with their reporting. Trump also has a habit of hurling the same insults leveled at him back at those he considers enemies. This has been the case with his use of “fake news” to attack the press, the insistence that Hillary Clinton, not he, is Vladimir Putin’s “puppet,” and his and his team’s arguments that the DNC, not his campaign, engaged in “collusion” with a foreign power.
Publicly, President Trump has rage-tweeted at NBC News over the course of several days over the Tillerson story. He also posted over the weekend that the network division “is so knowingly inaccurate with their reporting. The good news is that the PEOPLE get it, which is really all that matters! Not #1.” Last week, the president told reporters during his Las Vegas visit that “it was a totally phony story” that “was made up by NBC, they just made it up.”
The story, which has been confirmed by other news outlets, documented how an angry and frustrated Tillerson had strongly considered resigning over Trump’s speech in July to the annual jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America, where Tillerson used to serve as president. At the event, Trump went full-on campaign-style politics, lashing out at President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, all while eliciting 2016-era chants of “lock her up” and “build the wall.”
The NBC report also detailed that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron,” that Vice President Mike Pence had to step in to keep Tillerson on the job, and that the Secretary of State had questioned U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s utility in the Trump administration.
Tillerson quickly held a press conference shortly after the story published to deny certain aspects of the story. But he conspicuously did not deny the “moron” section. His decision at the presser not to aggressively deny that he had called Trump a “moron” for having little-to-no grasp on policy, diplomacy, and international affairs further enraged the president, who steamed and grumbled for hours straight.
“People in [the White House] who are loyal to the president think Rex Tillerson hates [Trump],” a White House official told The Daily Beast last week.
Sources spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations about alleged morons. Reached for comment, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, didn't explicitly deny the story, so much as use it as an opportunity to take another whack at the network.
"I haven't heard him say that," she said in an email. "But there has definitely been frustration voiced by many about NBC's fake news reporting on this issue."