Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has never called President Trump "a moron," according to the State Department.
"He did not say that," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday.
Tillerson and his team were rocked Wednesday morning by reports that tension between Trump and the nation's top diplomat had nearly resulted in the secretary of state's resignation in July. Tillerson disputed the story in his own press conference, and attributed the rumor to political backstabbing by "some who try to sow dissension to advance their own agenda."
"The secretary does not use that type of language," Nauert said. "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."
Nauert was asked about the insult, which reportedly followed a meeting with Pentagon officials in July, because Tillerson declined to comment directly about it.
"I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that," he said. "I mean, this is what I don't understand about Washington. Again, I'm not from this place, but the places I come from, we don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense. And it is intended to do nothing but divide people. And I'm just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration."
Tillerson repudiated the essence of the insult in his prepared statement.
"Let me tell you what I've learned about this President, whom I did not know before taking this office," Tillerson said. "He loves his country. He puts Americans and America first. He's smart. He demands results wherever he goes, and he holds those around him accountable for whether they've done the job he's asked them to do. Accountability is one of the bedrock values the president and I share."
Nauert discouraged reporters from concluding Tillerson unwillingness to deny the report confirmed that he said it.
"The secretary is a man who frequently talks about integrity," she said. "Integrity is something that is important to him. I take him at his word. And when he tells me 'Heather, I did not use that,' I believe him."
The secretary thought it necessary to deny the claim that he considered resigning, however.
"I think it's the most important element of the article, is to reaffirm my commitment to this role that President Trump's asked me to serve, and to dispel with this notion that I have ever considered leaving," Tillerson said. "I have answered that question repeatedly; for some reason, it continues to be misreported."