When you have been publicly accused of calling your boss a moron, it’s not a great idea to call a press conference about it.
This is particularly true when you are unable to refute the claim.
But if this seems common sense, it appears to have eluded Rex Tillerson, America’s Secretary of State, when he called in the media to address reports of the ‘moron’ label he’d allegedly attached to President Donald Trump along with rumours he had thought of resigning.
Mr Tillerson has a big job and may have been under pressure. He may have also been ordered to speak to the media by his boss. But his advisors should have known better.
The whole point of a press conference is to address an issue that is on people’s minds. Mr Tillerson went some of the way with this. He denied clearly and simply that he had considered quitting. But when it came to the ‘moron’ claim, he just didn’t want to talk about it all: “I’m not going to deal with petty stuff like that.”
This effectively confirmed the claim as true, and gave it a much higher profile than it had to start with.
The media were exultant. Surfacing from the horrors of the Las Vegas shootings, here was a story they could have fun with. “Rex Tillerson might as well have just said he called Trump a ‘moron’,” said the Washington Post in a headline.
Now, said the New York Times, the moron label really will never go away.
If he did push Mr Tillerson into the media, Donald Trump must have seen he had made the problem worse.
Some things you can’t brush aside. If an issue is on people’s minds you need to address it directly. If you can’t, it really is better just to stay quiet.