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Trump’s Thoughts on Rex Tillerson’s Intelligence: A Brief Timeline

Trump has called Tillerson “dumb as a rock” at least twice.
Trump has called Tillerson “dumb as a rock” at least twice.

Remember when President Donald Trump thought Rex Tillerson was smart? Back when he called his then-secretary of state a “world-class player and dealmaker?” Before Trump reportedly fired Tillerson while he was on the toilet?

Well, times have changed — so much that Trump has called Tillerson “dumb as a rock” at least twice. Just today, Trump was outraged that Tillerson reportedly told U.S. lawmakers that Russian President Vladimir Putin was more prepared for a meeting than the president was. A House Foreign Affairs committee aide told CNN that Tillerson said Trump’s lack of preparedness put the U.S. at a disadvantage for the leaders' 2017 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.


“Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

But that’s not even close to the first time the president has insulted the intelligence of Tillerson, who he once praised. The feeling, however, is apparently mutual. Tillerson has refused to deny that he privately refers to Trump as a “moron.”

When Trump announced that he picked Tillerson as secretary of state — a role from which he was eventually fired in March 2018 — the president called Tillerson “one of the truly great business leaders of the world.” Tillerson was the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, a longtime leader among climate change deniers.

Even when Trump first fired Tillerson, he said he respected his “intellect.” That notion appears to have deteriorated.

In October 2017, the president publicly boasted that he had a higher IQ than Tillerson, after reports first surfaced that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron.”

"I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests," Trump said. "And I can tell you who is going to win." (The White House later tried to play Trump’s comments off as a joke.)

Then, last December, the playground insults started coming. Trump called Tillerson “dumb as a rock” for the first time in a tweet that praised his now-current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

Cover image: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens for a journalist's question during his and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)