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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called his boss, President Donald Trump, a ‘moron’ after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon and threatened to resign, NBC News reported on Wednesday.

The report claimed that after the outburst, Vice President Mike Pence talked to Mr Tillerson and urged him to stay in the job for at least a year.

Mr Pence, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly, now the president’s chief of staff, and Defence Secretary James Mattis also advised Mr Tillerson on how to improve his relations with President Trump, the report added.

Earlier on Wednesday, Secretary Tillerson appeared at the State Department for a photo opportunity with Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif but refused to respond to reporters’ questions about the NBC report.

The State Department and the White House also did not respond to requests for comments on the report, but it did provoke Mr Trump to send out a tweet that said: “Wow, so many Fake News stories today.”

Mr Trump also complained that “no matter what I do or say, they will not write or speak truth”. But he did not elaborate.

Mr Tillerson, a former chairman and chief executive of the Exxon Mobil Corp, made the remark in front of members of Mr Trump’s national security team and cabinet officials, NBC reported, citing three separate officials.

The secretary was ready to resign, offended by comments Trump made in a speech to the Boy Scouts of America, the report added.

Other media sources reproduced NBC’s report and pointed out that the administration had been beset by resignations and firings since it took over less than a year ago.

The media noted that Mr Pence and others persuaded Mr Tillerson not to step down because they were concerned about potential fallout from the departure of such a high-level cabinet member in the first year of the Trump presidency.

But tensions between Mr Tillerson and his boss reignited this weekend when the secretary of state said the US was attempting to find a diplomatic solution to the current standoff with North Korea.

Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Tillerson was wasting his time and energy trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, whom he has dubbed “Little Rocket Man”.

The media noted that Secretary Tillerson and President Trump have also clashed over several key foreign policy issues, including Iran, Qatar and Venezuela.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2017