To say the White House is a hot mess these days would be an understatement. Among President Trump's richly varied PR disasters this past week is the fact that his Secretary of State reportedly called him a "moron" in a Pentagon meeting last summer. John Oliver discussed Rex Tillerson's reported "moron" comment about Trump on Last Week Tonight and it was, naturally, hilarious.
Three officials familiar with the incident told NBC News that Tillerson — "who, in every photo, looks like he just sold someone a top of the line Weber grill," Oliver jokes — allegedly made the comment at a meeting of Trump's national security team and other Cabinet members. He was apparently upset with the president following his widely publicized speech to the Boy Scouts of America, which memorably included some creepy sexualization of literal children, because Tillerson had formerly led the organization.
The State Department denied the report, Trump tweeted that the report had been "totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson," and Tillerson denied that he was ever unhappy at his post or that he'd ever considering quitting. But, interestingly, Tillerson never denied calling the president a moron. In fact, what he said when reporters asked him about it was: "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that."
So Trump's tweet was technically — brace yourself — a lie. All of this prompted NBC to clarify that what Tillerson actually called Trump in the meeting was "a f*cking moron." So there's that. "I guess this is just the type of discussion that we now have on TV," Oliver said. "Does the Secretary of State think the president is a moron or a f*cking moron? Because if it's just moron, then that actually makes him a moderate."
Oliver pointed out that this is actually a precarious position for Tillerson to be in as a diplomat, because if foreign leaders don't trust that he has the president's support, then they may be unwilling to negotiate with him. The same day that Tillerson addressed the comment, Buzzfeed published another report claiming that Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have a "suicide pact" to all quit together if one of them is fired.
But Tillerson's reported comment about Trump wasn't the only D.C. story that made headlines this past week. While Trump was taking photos with military leaders invited to the White House for a dinner on Thursday night, he said to reporters of the group: "You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm." Two different reporters asked him to clarify what storm he meant, and he responded only: "Could be the calm. Could be the calm before the storm... You'll find out."
If you're grasping helplessly at how to respond to this remark, let Oliver tackle it for you. He fumed:
What are you talking about? For a start, no moment in the preceding nine months has been even remotely calm. It's like we're two hours into a Slipknot concert and they just said, 'Enough ballads, now we're gonna play one that rocks.' Who knows what that means? He could mean decertifying the Iran nuclear deal. It could mean launching all-out war with North Korea. It could mean a military strike on Puerto Rico. Or it could mean nothing whatsoever, because — and here I am directly quoting the Secretary of State, I cannot emphasize this enough: these are his words, not mine, it is vulgar, and I frankly do not approve of this type of language — our president is a f*cking moron.
I think the most comforting takeaway at this point is that Trump probably has no idea what he meant by it either.
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