“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” he told the conservative news outlet Independent Journal Review.
When an aide asked him why he accepted the position anyway, he responded: “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
The former Exxon Mobil CEO said that when then-president elect Donald Trump requested a meeting with him in December, their first-ever meeting, Tillerson was under the impression that they would discuss issues “about the world” and his experience at Exxon Mobil.
“When he asked me at the end of that conversation to be secretary of state, I was stunned,” he said.
“I was supposed to retire in March, this month. I was going to go to the ranch to be with my grandkids,” he added. “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”
Tillerson’s interview came during a trip to Asia last week, which was met with significant controversy because, in a highly unusual move, State Department officials restricted members of the media from covering Tillerson’s trip, except for a reporter from the Independent Journal Review.
In another interview with IJR, he defended the lack of transparency, saying that “I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it.”
“I understand it’s important to get the message of what we’re doing out, but I also think there’s only a purpose in getting the message out when there’s something to be done,” he said.
But unlike during his business career, Tillerson now serves the American people, and press access is essential to ensuring independent coverage of and transparency in the government. Because U.S. reporters were not allowed access to Tillerson, much of the news from the trip came from foreign news outlets.