United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly referred to President Donald Trump as a "moron" after a meeting at the Pentagon, an NBC News story reported this week, citing senior administration staff.
Tillerson gave an unscheduled press conference on Wednesday morning to directly address the reports that he had considered resigning after said meeting, and had to be persuaded to stay in his role.
Tillerson denied the claim, saying:
I have never considered leaving this post.
He did not deny the claim that he had called the President a "moron," responding to a question about the allegation as follows:
I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that.
A State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said Wednesday morning that Tillerson did not use the word to describe the President:
The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the Unites States.
He did not say that.
MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle later upgraded the insult:
A blog post by the dictionary Merriam-Webster revealed that searches for the term spiked after it was widely reported that Tillerson had allegedly used the word in reference to Mr. Trump.
The post also discussed the etymology of the term:
Moron has two definitions, one clinical and one colloquial. The clinical one is the older of the two (although still quite recent), dating from 1910, and was proposed by psychologists as a technical term for those with a certain degree of mental impairment.
This sense is now quite dated, and it is considered offensive to use moron in this fashion.
The informal sense began to be used shortly after the technical one, and very quickly supplanted it, becoming a general-purpose term of abuse for 'a very stupid person.'