US President Donald Trump was only joking when he challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test, the White House has said.
Responding to an NBC News report that Tillerson called him a “moron,” Trump told Forbes magazine: “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.”
“He wasn’t questioning the Secretary of State’s intelligence,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Tuesday (Oct. 10).
“He made a joke. Maybe you guys should get a sense of humor and try it sometime,” she said.
“He’s got 100 percent confidence in the Secretary of State. He’s said it multiple times over the last couple of weeks. And we’re trying to move forward and focus on the agenda, while you guys want to move forward and talk about who likes who.”
The White House also has to deal with the president’s public feud with another leading republican, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker — who has criticised Trump’s leadership, saying he is putting the country “on the path to World War III”.
Trump hit back on Twitter, mocking the lawmaker’s physical stature and calling him a “fool”.
He dubbed Corker, reported by US media to be 1.70 m tall, “Liddle’ Bob Corker.”
Behind the scenes, Republican leaders are urging both sides to calm down, concerned the dispute could derail the party’s agenda for the coming months, in particular a push for a major tax reform.
Asked if his spat with Corker would affect the tax effort, Trump said: “I don’t think so, no.”
Trump also told reporters that adjustments to the barely 2-week-old tax plan were coming within weeks. He did not give details.
White House spokeswoman Sanders said later: “We don’t have any adjustments to make to the framework at this time.”
Corker, a Tennessee lawmaker who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a leading “deficit hawk” committed to reining in the federal deficit, has said he will oppose any package of tax changes that adds to the deficit.
His position matters because Republicans control the Senate by a narrow 52-to-48 margin as they hope to clinch their first major legislative achievement this year, after repeatedly failing to repeal the Obamacare healthcare law.
With Kristen Welker, NBC News