State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday flatly contradicted a news report that said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Donald Trump "a moron" in July.
NBC News reported that Tillerson called Trump a "moron" after a meeting at the Pentagon this summer and nearly resigned before Vice President Mike Pence intervened.
Tillerson himself addressed the report this morning to say that he is committed to serving the Trump administration and has never considered resigning. He did not expressly deny the charge that he insulted Trump as NBC reported, but Nauert assured reporters at a regular State Department press briefing that Tillerson said no such thing.
"The secretary does not use that type of language," Nauert said in response to a question about the alleged insult. "The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the United States; he does not use that language to speak about anyone. So I hope that clarifies it."
Nauert also said the NBC report was "clearly erroneous" and backed up Tillerson's previous comments.
"The report that the secretary said just a few hours ago is clearly erroneous; the secretary addressed that a few hours ago," Nauert said.
Trump also took aim at the report, which he called "fake news" on Wednesday morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 4, 2017
Trump reiterated this judgment later Wednesday, when he told reporters in Nevada that NBC's story was "fake news," and expressed his "total confidence" in Tillerson. Nauert also said that Trump and Tillerson spoke and had a good conversation.
Nauert explained why Tillerson initially did not deny the charge that he insulted Trump, saying he is not a "politician who seeks the spotlight."
"As a man, he is clear, he is direct, and he pulls no punches," Nauert said. "He is not a politician who seeks the spotlight, and many in foreign policy and in media circles simply don't understand that. They think why would somebody not want to speak in front of television cameras all the time."
Nauert was also emphatic about Tillerson not considering resignation from his position.
"The secretary has never considered resigning from his post, and for those who want him to do so, go ahead and keep pushing, because that will only strengthen his resolve," she said.