Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told CNN that he has never questioned President Donald Trump’s mental fitness, contradicting a book excerpt published this week in which Tillerson is reported to have described Trump as a “moron.”
“I’ve never questioned his mental fitness,” Tillerson said in an interview with CNN that aired on Friday. “I have no reason to question his mental fitness.”
Tillerson, in Michael Wolff’s recently released book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” is just one of several top administration officials described as questioning the president’s intellect.
“It became almost a kind of competition to demystify Trump,” Wolff wrote in his book. “For Rex Tillerson, he was a moron. For Gary Cohn, he was dumb as shit. For H.R. McMaster, he was a hopeless idiot. For Steve Bannon, he had lost his mind.”
Cohn is Trump’s top economic adviser, McMaster is national security adviser, and Bannon was the president’s chief strategist.
It is not the first time that Tillerson has been forced to deny calling the president a moron, with a previous episode in October prompting the president to challenge his secretary of state to an IQ test — in a tweet that the White House said was a joke — and Tillerson to hold an impromptu press conference denying that he had ever made such a remark.
The two have shared a rocky relationship, with Trump at times undercutting his secretary of state in public. Tillerson told CNN that his relationship with the president “is a developing one” and that the two men had not known each other until Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil CEO, came under consideration to be named the nation’s top diplomat.
Tillerson, whose tenure at the State Department is often the subject of speculation, said he planned to remain in his job “for the whole year.”
“In terms of what I would do different, I’m going to build on my ability to communicate with the president better,” Tillerson said. “I had to learn what is effective with this President. He is not typical of presidents of the past. I think that’s well recognized. That’s also the why the American people chose him.”