U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a press conference Wednesday just so he could tell people he thinks the president is “smart,” becoming the latest in a string of officials who appeared to find it necessary to publicly praise the leader.
Tillerson spoke briefly from the Treaty Room in the White House about his loyalty to the administration and President Donald Trump. The press conference came after a report from NBC News that said Tillerson called Trump a “moron” in July and was approached by Vice President Mike Pence about how to handle disagreements with the president.
Trump expressed his displeasure with NBC in a tweet shortly before Tillerson spoke Wednesday:
Trump tweeted again after Tillerson’s remarks:
Tillerson said NBC “erroneously reported” that Pence had to convince him to stay. He did not deny that he called Trump a “moron.”
“I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that,” Tillerson said, calling NBC’s report “nonsense.”
Tillerson used the press conference to praise Trump.
“He’s smart,” Tillerson said. “He demands results wherever he goes.”
He's smart. Rex Tillerson, speaking about President Donald Trump
It’s not the first time an official working under Trump has used a public appearance to praise the president. During a visit to Puerto Rico to survey damage from Hurricane Maria, Trump asked Jenniffer González-Colón, the island’s representative to Congress, to repeat “nice things” she had said about Trump in interviews.
During that same visit, Trump addressed San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whom he had attacked just days before. Trump said she had “come a long way” from her criticism of the federal government’s relief efforts and had “acknowledged what a great job we’ve done.”
In July, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised Trump even as he admitted the president’s repeated public criticism of him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation was “kind of hurtful.”
“Well, it’s kind of hurtful, but the president of the United States is a strong leader,” Sessions told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
At an event in June, members of Trump’s Cabinet took turns praising him after the president kicked off the meeting by praising himself.
Trump has called himself a “great loyalty freak” in the past.