Kelly Tells Reporters Tillerson Was on the Toilet When Told of Firing

One of the supposed "adults" in the Trump administration has no class.

I hesitate to even share this, but it’s sadly indicative of what a low-class administration is running the country.

The Daily Beast (“John Kelly: Rex Tillerson Was on the Toilet When I Told Him He’d Be Getting Fired“):

Reporters gathered at the White House on Friday were stunned when Chief of Staff John Kelly shared a very embarrassing story about outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The reporters were there with senior White House officials for an off-the-record meeting with Kelly, who was attempting to tamp down speculation about an impending administration staff purge. The Daily Beast was not invited, but was briefed on its contents by three sources with knowledge of the meeting.

According to those sources, Kelly recounted a very awkward conversation with Tillerson during which he informed the secretary that President Donald Trump would very likely soon fire him. The awkwardness was less a result of the contents of the conversation than its setting.

Tillerson, Kelly told the room, was suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, and was using a toilet when Kelly broke the news to him.

Sources were stunned that, even in an off-record setting, Kelly would say this—to a room filled with White House officials and political reporters—about Tillerson, who does not officially leave the State Department until the end of the month.

Kelly is routinely touted as one of the more mature members of Trump’s top brass and has often been branded as one of the “adults” in charge.

The comment was especially bizarre given Kelly’s reported past cover for Tillerson. The chief of staff tried for months to keep the secretary of state in his post, The New York Times reported, and fumed at his dismissal.

[…]

A White House spokesman declined to comment when reached by The Daily Beast about the scatalogical comment from the White House chief of staff that further contributed to what has been a particularly inglorious end for Tillerson, days after he was sacked via tweet, without warning from the president.

It wasn’t Kelly’s only off color comment at the meeting. According to an Axios report, he also joked about incoming chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s former cocaine habit. Kudlow, who has been up front about his past drug problems, has been sober for 23 years. Axios also reported that Kelly said in the meeting that Trump himself was likely contributing to rumors and stories regarding chaos at the Cabinet and senior staff level.

Kelly entered the administration with a sterling reputation. Day by day, it’s being tarnished.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The day he joined this administration it was tarnished beyond redemption. Every day that he stays the more obvious his complicity in the racketeer influenced and corrupt organization that is the trump administration and the greater the likelihood of his committing an overt act of criminality becomes.

    10
  2. al-Ameda says:

    Tillerson, Kelly told the room, was suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, and was using a toilet when Kelly broke the news to him.
    ….
    Kelly is routinely touted as one of the more mature members of Trump’s top brass and has often been branded as one of the “adults” in charge.

    So much for John Kelly.
    It’s official, Trump has turned Kelly into a pathetic mouthpiece. Again and again, Trump eventually diminishes everyone in his orbit.

    16
  3. rachel says:

    Gross. How did he get to the age he is without knowing when it is appropriate to not mention certain things? It’s like we’re being governed by a horde of peevish toddlers.

    9
  4. michael reynolds says:

    These really are low, vile, despicable people. Trump is a pig, and the people who work for him are pigs.

    11
  5. CSK says:

    I had some regard for Kelly. At the very least, he appeared to be an adult.

    No more.

    6
  6. rachel says:

    I lost all remaining respect for him when he told untruths about Rep. Wilson and then never apologized when it was pointed out to him that what he’d said was not true.

    He is a liar and a slanderer.

    16
  7. MBunge says:

    Wait. He made an off-the-record comment and someone not only published it, they directly attributed it to Kelly? That used to be the sort of thing that got media people fired. And not just the people at The Daily Beast but any of their sources for this story.

    And if you think such a comment even ranks in the top 100 for most inappropriate thing politicians have said to reporters off the record, you need to go back to Sunday School because you’ll never be able to handle the real world.

    You know, the people who lost their minds and embraced stuff like torture they would have previously scorned at least had the trauma of 9/11 as an excuse. James Joyner and Michael Reynolds? You guys lost your marbles over Donald Trump.

    Mike

  8. CSK says:

    @MBunge:

    Kelly hasn’t denied saying it, has he?

    7
  9. MarkedMan says:

    Trump has no A level people in his administration. When Kelly first joined and seemed to be pulling things together, I thought, “well, at least there seems to be a B level guy in there.” But it turns out to be more complicated than that. He may have B level talents, but he’s got some fatal flaws more often associated with hacks. His number one is that he can’t keep his demons private. He’s revealed himself as vindictive and racist, dishonorable and contemptuous of those he considers “lesser”. I’m not saying those are his fatal flaws. There are no doubt many B level and even A level talents that have some or all of those negatives. Rather, his flaw is that he can’t keep them in. I wonder if he had reached a dead end in the military and that’s why he threw his lot in with Trump?

    5
  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @MBunge:

    He made an off-the-record comment and someone not only published it, they directly attributed it to Kelly? That used to be the sort of thing that got media people fired.

    Head? Meet desk.

    6
  11. CSK says:

    I’m a bit surprised that Trump didn’t react to Kelly’s characterization of him as the Leaker-in-Chief.

    @MarkedMan:
    Kelly retired as a four-star general after what appears to have been a distinguished career.

    4
  12. James Pearce says:

    @MBunge:

    He made an off-the-record comment and someone not only published it, they directly attributed it to Kelly? That used to be the sort of thing that got media people fired.

    When did that ever get any media people fired?

    6
  13. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    I’ll bet a dollar your father was a drunk. You have the mentality of an ACOA, and Adult Child of Alcoholics. Defend Daddy no matter what he does. That’s a possible mitigation, but despite any mitigation, you’re as much of a pig as Trump is. Get help.

    11
  14. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    It wasn’t an ‘off the record’ statement to a reporter. It was an an off the record statement told to a reporter by other parties.

    6
  15. gVOR08 says:

    From USA Today via WIKI,

    (As Sec. of Homeland Security) in six months, Kelly eliminated guidelines that governed federal immigration agents’ work; vastly expanded the categories of immigrants being targeted for deportation; threatened to abandon the Obama-era program that grants legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children; and has even broached the idea of splitting up mothers and children at the border to “deter” people from coming to the U.S.

    Being an effective general does not rule out being a dedicated RWNJ.

    3
  16. John430 says:

    @michael reynolds: In re: “…Trump is a pig…”

    He is surpassed by LBJ who had conversations with aides while seated on the toilet with the door open. “Class” is no respecter of political party.

  17. @John430: I don’t think anyone was claiming this was a partisan observation.

    This is a really weird place to deploy “both sides do it.”

    7
  18. @gVOR08: While I had some hopes that Kelly could bring some level of professionalism to the WH (and, perhaps in relative terms, he has–please note the word “relative”) his brief time at Homeland Security did not inspire a lot of confidence that he didn’t fit in with this admin.

    1
  19. michael reynolds says:

    @John430:
    Not even close. LBJ would not have fired a man 26 hours away from the pension he’d earned during 20 years of service to this country. That isn’t crude, its cruel. It’s nasty and low. Your president is a pig.

    10
  20. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It wasn’t an ‘off the record’ statement to a reporter. It was an an off the record statement told to a reporter by other parties.

    Whatever it was, I’m still trying to place in history where this idea originated that journalists have some kind of ethical standards that they’ll get fired for not upholding.

    I seem to remember a certain amount of sleaze being associated with the profession. When, and how, did they become such vaunted heroes in our culture? I mean, Tom Wolfe gave us Peter Fallow and we knew exactly what he was talking about. When I was a teenager, I saw Robert Downey Jr. in Natural Born Killers and, having watched A Current Affair and witnessing the OJ circus and the Menendez brothers and who knows what else, I knew what he was talking about.

    Would modern audiences, conditioned to a partisan media whose lapses they are apt to defend, recognize it?

    5
  21. @James Pearce: Without getting into some blanket defense of a profession, the notion of journalism as having some kind of virtue is not some newfangled partisan creation. There are plenty of other pop culture references to reporters with virtue and ethics, so I am not sure what your point is. All the President’s Men? Lou Grant? The very existence of the Pulitzer Prize.

    I mean, sure, there is a difference between sensationalism and journalism, but that is nothing new.

    Perhaps I am missing your point?

    3
  22. And to be clear: journalists can be sleazy and over-focused on their own goals, but somehow I don’t think “A Current Affair” or the like is the bellwether we should use to judge.

    1
  23. John430 says:

    @michael reynolds: LOL! In case you failed to notice, he’s YOUR President too. Unless of course you’re actually a Canadian or an illegal resident of the United States, in which case you can FOAD!

  24. John430 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Did you bother to read the post of Reynolds, to which I replied? Or are some pigs more equal than other pigs on this blog?

  25. @John430: I repeat that this is a very weird place to find some reason to create “both sides do it” regarding the usage of toilets and politics.

    Really, it is a non sequitur of a comparison. Does the fact that LBJ could be classless mean anything about this current situation? No, it doesn’t.

    (If it makes you happy: yes, it is gross and classless to hold a meeting from the toilet).

    8
  26. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    I worked as a free lance with the Richmond News-Leader before it died. I wrote the restaurant review column and did feature pieces. I did a piece which included a reference to a cinnamon bun company. The company sent a half dozen buns. My editor called me in and explained in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances were we to take anything, from anyone, ever. No, not even a free lance like me.

    Yes, there is a such a thing as journalistic ethics.

    The American mainstream media – setting Murdoch’s tools aside – does an extraordinarily good job. Why don’t you take a look at some of the WaPo or NYT reporting on Trump and see just how many sources they have, how many reporters working each piece, and how seldom they are ever shown to be factually wrong.

    Attacking the media is cheap and easy and wrong. Facile cynicism about the media does nothing but dumb down the American electorate.

    10
  27. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Perhaps I am missing your point?

    My point is that, yes, throughout the history of journalism, there have been intrepid reporters and hacks, with the implicit understanding that the hacks have the numerical superiority and the Murrows and Woodward/Bernsteins (who met their source in secret in a parking garage and concealed his identity for decades) are the exception.

    But here we are, 2018, with our partisan media, and everyone thinks the hacks work for the other guys, and our guys are all noble heroes. That’s why Shepard Smith can be praised. It’s not “He’s a great newsreader.” It’s “At least he’s not a hack.”

    And here’s Bunge thinking reporters would get fired for reporting the contents of “off-the-record” meetings. These people will dig through your garbage or camp outside your house to get a picture of your in your bathrobe, but they have to honor an off-the-record agreement?

    Don’t get me wrong: There’s a lot of room between the Trumpian “reporters are enemies of the people” and “reporters are not your friends.”

    1
  28. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Can you provide an example of a mainstream media reporter violating the ‘off the record’ rule?

    4
  29. @James Pearce: I guess it strikes me as rather pointless to note that, in any profession, that there are hacks.

    This seems to me to be obviously true and also unhelpful.

    4
  30. @John430:

    in which case you can FOAD!

    BTW, in a series of comments in which you are trying to claim some sort of moral high ground over the contents of the commentary (or about “pigs” in general) that is one weird way to show your moral superiority.

    “FOAD” is pretty extreme to begin with, and seems especially unnecessary given the low level of importance of the discussion in this thread.

    8
  31. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yes, there is a such a thing as journalistic ethics.

    Not really. Some outlets are more ethical than others, which doesn’t just hint that there is no industry-wide ethical standards; it confirms it.

    Attacking the media is cheap and easy and wrong.

    I understand the temptation to defend, especially in the face of Trump’s unhinged criticism, the media. But it’s useful to remember they are not your friends.

    2
  32. @James Pearce:

    But it’s useful to remember they are not your friends.

    What does this even mean?

    1
  33. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This question is the logical end point of all of James Pearce’s threads. There’s a tiny gem of a point inside, buried under a mound of baseless assertions, post hoc fallacies, and world-weary cynical banalities.

    4
  34. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Can you provide an example of a mainstream media reporter violating the ‘off the record’ rule?

    I see “off the record” stuff reported all the time. Indeed, most of the time someone is talking “off the record” to a reporter, they want what they’re talking about on-record, just not attributed to them. “Print this, but don’t use my name.”

    You ever see any reporters getting sued for violating an “off the record” agreement?

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I guess it strikes me as rather pointless to note that, in any profession, that there are hacks.

    Is it pointless to note that in journalism, specifically, some people are hired precisely because they are hacks?

    (I’ll remind you that this whole discussion started when I challenged Mbunge on this: “That used to be the sort of thing that got media people fired.” Reporters get fired for a lot of different things. But for reporting on “off the record” meetings? Not so much.)

    1
  35. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What does this even mean?

    It means they don’t have your back, so you don’t have to get theirs. It means their interests are not your interests.

    @Lit3Bolt:

    There’s a tiny gem of a point inside, buried under a mound of baseless assertions, post hoc fallacies, and world-weary cynical banalities.

    That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me. Thank you.

    1
  36. @James Pearce: I have no idea what having all of journalism’s back means.

    2
  37. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Without getting into some blanket defense of a profession, the notion of journalism as having some kind of virtue is not some newfangled partisan creation. […] The very existence of the Pulitzer Prize.

    Not to defend James points (which I do NOT agree with when applied to Journalism as practiced for the last ~50 years or so), but it’s great you are linking virtue of journalism with the Pulitzer. Because that was the original intent.

    Pulitzer, like others of his generation was a master of Yellow/Partisan journalism. What happened was that he, Hearst, the Knights and others became media magnates and then decided to make journalism “respectable.” And so, starting around the beginning of the 20th Century, they transformed Journalism from an itinerant craft based trade (think Mark Twain and Jack London) to a modern profession via founding schools and creating juried prizes like the Pulitzer.

    In some respects, where we are ending up today, is actually closer to early/traditional American Journalism than the last ~50 years.

    Beyond that, in my experiences studying and observing journalists, the number of actual “hacks” I’ve encountered has been rather low. As with any profession, they are of course out there, but the reality is that they don’t last long in modern media outlets. The degree to which stories are not well covered has far more to do with the time constraints of “feeding a daily beast” than journalistic integrity issues.

    Beyond that, I don’t grok James’ broader argument either.

    1
  38. @mattb: Sure–I get that there are hacks and all that–what I did not grok (a perfect word in this context) is the notion that there isn’t a pre-existing, fairly long-term notion that there are great virtues in journalism (even if that are not always realized). It is not new, or necessarily partisan, notion (although I suspect that extolling journalism tends to be associated with liberal do-gooders).

    Mostly I don’t get the idea that we can speak of an entire profession as though it was one thing. I don’t think all of academia (or just political scientists) are all my “friends” or that they “have my back” let alone all of journalism.

    1
  39. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Mostly I don’t get the idea that we can speak of an entire profession as though it was one thing. I don’t think all of academia (or just political scientists) are all my “friends” or that they “have my back” let alone all of journalism.

    Again 100%. While there is definitely a feeling of mutual support between those in the news game (especially since the start of the death of news), they are definitely not a monolithic block.

    Just ask real “news” person about someone who works in sports and you will typically get an earful. 🙂

    But sports is still better than a blogger or an opinion guy.

  40. Barry says:

    @CSK: “I had some regard for Kelly. At the very least, he appeared to be an adult.”

    It was clear from his ICE time (I almost said ‘ISIS’) that the man was a racist right-wing sh*thead. And I’ll wager that it was from a long time back – as I’ve said, a reporter should dig into his Marine Corps career.

  41. Barry says:

    @CSK: “Kelly retired as a four-star general after what appears to have been a distinguished career.”

    Either at a vigorous age 55 he had a major personality change, or he was like that all along.

    Take your pick.

    1
  42. Barry says:

    @John430: “LOL! In case you failed to notice, he’s YOUR President too. Unless of course you’re actually a Canadian or an illegal resident of the United States, in which case you can FOAD!”

    ‘Not my president’ is a statement originated by a Republican.

    2
  43. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MarkedMan: Kelly was the Commander of Southern Command. The very definition of a B-list talent. Your top Generals become their Service Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or the Commanders of Central, Pacific, Special Ops, and European Commands. The rest are second stringers

    1
  44. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MBunge: Bunge logic: No one should say anything, EVER…because they didn’t say anything before during previous administrations. I assume you were feverishly posting similar lines of reasoning in Conservative and Right Wing forums during the Obama administration? Yes?

    2
  45. James Joyner says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Kelly was the Commander of Southern Command. The very definition of a B-list talent. Your top Generals become their Service Chiefs of Staff, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or the Commanders of Central, Pacific, Special Ops, and European Commands. The rest are second stringers

    While it’s true that some four-star billets are more impressive than others, there are only 38 of them. And quite a high percentage of SOUTHCOM commanders have gone on to more prestige billets, including a JCS Chairman.

  46. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @James Joyner: Pre-9-11 it was a prestigious assignment due the the Counter-Narco operations DOD was involved in.

    Post 9-11 its been a backwater and a retirement assignment for almost every Commander since 2003 (guess what happened in DOD then) except 1 I think.

    Granted, being a 2nd tier 4-star General is like being an NBA 2nd-stringer–deficient only when compared to the sample size of warfighting 4 stars but nevertheless stellar when compared with the population of “Generals”