And, on Tuesday, Tillerson's cabinet ally Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pointedly told lawmakers at a congressional hearing that he backed the secretary's North Korea strategy.
He then went on to say that Mr. Trump "loves his country", puts America first and called him "smart". And when asked point blank whether that press report is accurate, he did not deny using the word "moron". He didn't provide names.
An NBC News spokeswoman told Business Insider on Wednesday that the news organization stands by its reporting. But Tillerson is not in that situation, when the president has taken issue with him on North Korea.
As NBC News reported, the vice president Mike Pence doubted if Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley would stay on her post. R.C. Hammond, Top State Department spokesman for Rex Tillerson, announced that Tillerson never called Donald Trump a "moron". It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!'
Simultaneously, Mr. Tillerson has estranged lawmakers, foreign policy veterans and the news media while dispiriting the state department and detractors inside and outside the White House contemplated his imperfections as self-wreaked.
Tillerson's growing isolation from the administration, and his personal anger at Trump, were chronicled in the NBC News report, in which sources described Tillerson as on the verge of quitting in July.
In an unscheduled statement to reporters Wednesday morning, Tillerson directly addressed that version of events, saying, "I have never considered leaving this post".
Why should any foreign nation waste time talking to Tillerson when it's clear that anything he says can be deep-sixed in a tweet?
All those personnel changes in such a short period of time lends credence to the claim made by Trump administration officials that the White House was afraid that Tillerson's departure would make the White House look especially inept and chaotic.
The report largely overshadowed Trump's visit to Las Vegas, during which the president repeatedly tried to play down the speculation of a rift between his top diplomat and himself.
TONIGHT: Stephen's no rocket scientist, but he's pretty sure he has this whole Rex-Tillerson-called-POTUS-a-moron thing figured out...