President Donald Trump appeared to challenge Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “compare IQ tests” a few days after news emerged that Tillerson called Trump “a moron” this summer.
In an interview published Tuesday by Forbes, Trump said that he didn’t believe Tillerson called him a “moron,” before expressing confidence that he would have a higher IQ score than the man he made the country’s top diplomat.
“I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump told Forbes reporter Randall Lane. Trump also told Lane that he didn’t see a need to appoint the hundreds of State Department positions that are currently unfilled.
“I'm generally not going to make a lot of the appointments that would normally be — because you don't need them,” Trump said. “I mean, you look at some of these agencies, how massive they are, and it's totally unnecessary. They have hundreds of thousands of people.”
Vox’s Brian Resnick has taken a long look at the actual significance of IQs — and found that they generally correlate with positive life outcomes like longevity, health, and career success.
NBC News broke the story last week that Tillerson openly called the president a moron, leading to a bizarre press conference in which Tillerson said Trump “is smart” and announced that he wasn’t quitting.
As Vox’s Alex Ward explains, tensions between Tillerson and Trump had been simmering for weeks:
Tillerson speaks on behalf of the president and the country. But on multiple occasions, Trump and Tillerson haven’t been on the same page.
In June, Tillerson defended US ally Qatar during its diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Just one hour later, Trump undercut Tillerson and slammed Qatar. “I've decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals, and military people, the time has come to call on Qatar to end its [terrorism] funding,” Trump said at a press conference alongside the president of Romania.
On September 20, Tillerson told reporters that Trump was “still considering” whether the US would remain in the Iran nuclear deal. But just a few hours earlier, Trump told reporters he had made up his mind — though apparently he didn’t tell his secretary of state.
And after Tillerson traveled to China in late September to start a dialogue with North Korea, Trump publicly undercut his effort. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted on October 1, using his insult for Kim Jong Un. “Save your energy Rex,” he added in a following tweet, “we'll do what has to be done!”