Rex Tillerson (AP/Cliff Owen)

Rex Tillerson says his staff prints out Donald Trump’s tweets

The Secretary of State doesn’t have a Twitter account, relies on printouts to know what his boss is thinking


Nicole Karlis
January 18, 2018 12:01PM (UTC)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's lack of a social media presence is inhibiting him from keeping up with Donald Trump’s Twitter — and apparently that’s OK, because he still has a printer.

At an event with former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice at Stanford University, Tillerson said that his staff has to print out Donald Trump’s tweets for him because Tillerson is not on Twitter.

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"Now on the one hand you can say, well, that's nuts, why don't you get an account? But on the other hand I've actually concluded that's not a bad system because it goes out and I don't know it's going to go out, so there's not a whole lot I'm going to do until it's out there," Tillerson said, according to the CNN report.

Tillerson also said Trump's Twitter fingers were something he had to get used to, as "it was very unconventional."

According to CNN, Tillerson praised Trump's communicative abilities, calling him "world-class at social media.”

Tillerson's praise of Trump is particularly amusing in light of 2017 reports that Tillerson allegedly called President Trump a "f**king moron" behind the president's back. Tillerson never denied that he had said that.

Besides being amusing, Tillerson's technological illiteracy highlights a bigger political problem: the challenges some politicians face in adapting to new technologies and trends.

In 2008, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — who was then running for president against Barack Obama — was dubbed “the analog candidate” by The New York Times, when they learned that he didn’t “text, Treo or Twitter, either.”

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"I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself," McCain told The New York Times in a separate interview. "I don't expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need."

McCain finally joined Twitter in 2009.

In the annals of tweet-printing, Tillerson has a friend in Sen. Bernie Sanders, I.-Vt. In January 2017, Sen. Sanders printed out a Trump tweet on extra-large posterboard and brought it to the Senate floor. Sanders' tweet-printing stunt was more about optics than Sanders' own adroitness at social media; indeed, Sen. Sanders is very vocal on Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, in February 2017, former press secretary Sean Spicer printed out a tweet as a talking point at a press conference.

The evolution of tweets becoming historical artifacts could have never been foreseen in Twitter’s early days, yet we have reached a moment when the Library of Congress has put a halt to archiving every tweet, — while simultaneously, politicians are printing them out.

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Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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