Rex Tillerson Just Gave a Speech Warning of Dishonest Leadership and Everyone Thinks He's Talking About Trump

May 16, 2018: Rex Tillerson speaks at Virginia Military Institute commencement. (NBC News)

"As I reflect upon the state of our American democracy, I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity."

If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom."

So stated former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his commencement address at Virginia Military Institute (VMI) on Wednesday. He further stated:

"A responsibility of every American citizen to each other is to preserve and protect our freedom by recognizing what truth is and is not, what a fact is and is not and begin by holding ourselves accountable to truthfulness and demand our pursuit of America's future be fact-based -- not based on wishful thinking, not hoped-for outcomes made in shallow promises, but with a clear-eyed view of the facts as they are, and guided by the truth that will set us free to seek solutions to our most daunting challenges."

The former oil industry executive served as head of the U.S. State Department under President Donald Trump from his confirmation on February 1, 2017 until fired by Trump on March 13, 2018. March 31 was his last day in office.

Tillerson never spoke of any American leaders in particular, but he did invoke the names of several countries his former boss speaks highly of: China and Russia.

"When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth, even on what may see the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on America," he continued.

Tillerson also warned of the death of American democracy.

If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both private and public sector, and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector, then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years."

"An essential tenant of a free society, a free people, is access to the truth. A government structure and a societal understanding that freedom to seek the truth is the very essence of freedom itself. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

While never invoking the president's name in his speech, few think he was referring to anyone else. Trump's presidency remains mired in accusations of dishonesty. His own spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway, called the president's statements "alternate facts".

This isn't the first time Tillerson spoke on integrity or a lack thereof. In his brief remarks before leaving the State Department, he said:

"Never lose sight of your most valuable asset, the most valuable asset you possess: your personal integrity. This can be a very mean-spirited town. But you don't have to choose to participate in that."

Twitter immediately took notice of Tillerson's speech.

But some in the press corps who covered the State Department during his tenure are calling out Tillerson's own integrity.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It took a global pandemic and a national health crisis for the White House to temporarily restore daily press briefings after more than a year.

The purpose of the briefings is to update the public on the virus's spread and which potentially lifesaving measures are necessary for Americans to take in order to keep themselves and their families safe.

Keep reading... Show less
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images; Samuel Corum/Getty Images

With Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) officially suspending his campaign on Wednesday, all signs are pointing to a showdown between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in November.

The pair's differing stances on how to curb the global pandemic that's resulted in a national health crisis in the United States are already highlighting just how much more effective—and levelheaded—a Biden presidency would be.

Keep reading... Show less
Walter McBride/Getty Images // Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's hatred of the late Republican Senator from Arizona, John McCain, was widely known even before McCain cast the decisive vote that saved the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

That hatred has only worsened since that vote, with Trump initially refusing to lower flags at half staff to honor him and even implying that McCain is in Hell.

Keep reading... Show less
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Pastor and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. came under fire late last month when he ordered faculty to return to the university and gave students the option to return, despite the mounting health crisis in the United States.

Surely enough, it wasn't long before students began falling ill.

Keep reading... Show less
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway may be one of President Donald Trump's most vocal defenders, but her husband—Republican lawyer George Conway—is decidedly not.

After months of speaking out against Trump on Twitter, Conway and three other prominent Republican strategists formed Project Lincoln late last year.

Keep reading... Show less

The World Health Organization (WHO) is responsible for providing guidance regarding international public health, so people around the world are looking to the WHO during this global pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less