How Tillerson overcame Trump’s alleged ‘castration’ with a well-timed sound bite

The secretary of state’s quick quip diverted reporters’ attention and helped him untangle himself from additional political sparring. Tell us about similar PR successes, and you could win a prize.


A well-positioned sound bite can save your client from a PR nightmare.

Don’t believe me? Ask Rex Tillerson, our U.S. Secretary of State.

Pursued by reporters to confirm or deny that he called Trump a “moron,” Tillerson bobbed and weaved with no success. The questions kept coming. Then came his interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper.

When asked by Tapper if Tillerson felt “publicly castrated” by Trump, a suggestion made by GOP Sen. Bob Corker the previous week, Tillerson won the day with this showstopper:

“I checked. I’m fully intact.”

The quote became an instant hit on the Internet. Reporters stopped talking about “Moron-gate” and laughed instead at Tillerson’s good-natured comeback.

The moral of the story: A good quote can divert attention, humanize the target and change the conversation. This is why political image makers spend hours rehearsing sound bites before press conferences and political debates.

PR Daily readers, I’ve got a challenge for you—and there will be prizes.

Can you think of other sound bites throughout history that won the day? They can be from the business or political world. Comment below, and we’ll pick three winners and award free registrations to our PR Daily World Conference in Washington, D.C.

I’ll get you started with a Ronald Reagan’s sound bite from the 1980 presidential race against Jimmy Carter—a moment that changed the course of the campaign:

Now, it’s your turn.

Mark Ragan is a consultant for the Ragan Consulting Group and the publisher of PR Daily. Ragan works with communicators to transform their companies into media outlets.

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