Tillerson abruptly leaves podium after dismissing resignation rumors as 'ridiculous' in awkward exchange with reporter

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was speaking to reporters Monday before meeting with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, when a member of the French press asked him an awkward question

"Bonjour, Monsieur Secretary," the reporter began. "Secretary Tillerson, have you already submitted a letter of resignation with an effective date in January?"

"That's ridiculous," Tillerson replied, according to a transcript posted by CNN. 

"Thank you," the reporter said. 

Tillerson repeated that it was "a ridiculous question." He then abruptly ended the briefing and left the podium. 

The inquiry was likely the result of recent media reports indicating that Tillerson's already-tense relationship with President Donald Trump is growing increasingly frayed. 

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Trump and Tillerson interact on the world stage
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Trump and Tillerson interact on the world stage
U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confer during a working lunch with African leaders during the U.N. General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) attend a working dinner with Latin American leaders in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks toward President Donald Trump during the 9/11 observance at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) looks toward him during a working dinner with Latin American leaders in New York, U.S., September 18, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) at his side, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a luncheon with Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
US President Donald Trump (R) speaks to the press with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) on August 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump said Friday that he was considering options involving the US military as a response to the escalating political crisis in Venezuela. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) listens to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) during a meeting with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (C), US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayif bin Abdulaziz al-Saud take part in a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Riyadh on May 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Trump (C) sits with US Secretary of State Rewx Tillerson (R), Vice President Mike Pence (2nd L) and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (L) during a lunch meeting with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri at the White House in Washington, DC, April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes off his glasses after delivering a statement on Iran in the Treaty Room of the State Department in Washington, DC, on April 19, 2017. US President Donald Trump's administration has launched a review of the Iran nuclear deal, officials said April 18, branding it a 'failed approach' to the threat posed by the Tehran regime. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: (AFP OUT) US President Donald Trump greets Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin (C) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) on his way out after delivering his first address to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017 in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Trump's first address to Congress focused on national security, tax and regulatory reform, the economy, and healthcare. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo - Pool/Getty Images)
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Tillerson's resignation rumors swirled as recently as late last month, when The New York Times reported that Trump is considering ousting Tillerson and replacing him with current CIA director Mike Pompeo. In turn, the president is said to be weighing nominating Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton to take Pompeo's place at the CIA. 

Outside of his relationship with Trump, Tillerson has also earned sustained criticism from former diplomats and career foreign service officers for making deep cuts to State Department staff. 

"We are witnessing the most significant departure of diplomatic talent in generations," former diplomats R. Nicholas Burns and Ryan C. Crocker wrote in a Times op-ed last month. 

The American Foreign Service Association released employment data in November that appears to support that claim. According to the data, the State Department has seen a "dizzying" drop in foreign service officers in leadership ranks, and a 60% decrease in career ambassadors.

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Rex Tillerson through his career
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Rex Tillerson through his career

Exxon Mobil Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson speaks at a news conference following the Exxon Mobil annual shareholders meeting in Dallas, Texas May 30, 2007. Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday that the construction of the Mackenzie pipeline project in Canada was not viable at current cost levels.

(REUTERS/Mike Stone)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson look on at a signing ceremony in the Black Sea resort of Sochi August 30, 2011. Exxon and Russia's Rosneft signed a deal on Tuesday to develop oil and gas reserves in the Russian Arctic, opening up one of the last unconquered drilling frontiers to the global industry No.1.

(REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool)

Executives from six major oil companies are sworn in to testify at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the "Consolidation in the Oil and Gas Industry: Raising Prices?" on Capitol Hill in Washington March 14, 2006. The executives are (L-R) Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., James Mulva, Chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, David O'Reilly, Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp., Bill Klesse, CEO of Valero Energy Corp., John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company and Ross Pillari, President and CEO of BP America Inc.

(Jason Reed / Reuters)

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo)

Chairman, President and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex Tillerson watches a tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club course in Pebble Beach, California, February 6, 2014.

(REUTERS/Michael Fiala)

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil; John Watson, chairman and CEO of Chevron Corp.; James Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; Marvin Odum, president of Shell Oil Co.; and Lamar McKay, president and chairman of BP America Inc.; are sworn in during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on their safety practices as oil continues to leak into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig - operated by BP - exploded last month.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston, Texas April 21, 2015.

(REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo)

WASHINGTON, DC - May 12: James Mulva, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips; and Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp.; during the Senate Finance hearing on oil and gas tax incentives.

(Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)

Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation Rex W. Tillerson and Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg attends the United Nations Foundation's global leadership dinner at The Pierre Hotel on November 8, 2011 in New York City.

(Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., left, speaks with Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates Inc., during the 2015 IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. CERAWeek 2015, in its 34th year, will provide new insights and critically-important dialogue with decision-makers in the oil and gas, electric power, coal, renewables, and nuclear sectors from around the world.

(Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Renda St. Clair and Rex Tillerson attend the reopening celebration at Ford's Theatre on February 11, 2009 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Abby Brack/Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, listens during a meeting at the Department of the Interior September 22, 2010 in Washington, DC. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar hosted Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Gulf Oil Spill National Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen (Ret.), representatives from the private sector and others to discus strengthening the containment abilities to deep water oil and gas well blowouts like the recent BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson bids farewell to Chad's Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif as he departs N'Djamena, Chad, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tours an anti-poaching forensic lab at the Kenya Wildlife Service in Nairobi, Kenya, March 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh at the Presidential Palace in Djibouti, March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson boards his plane to depart Addis Ababa International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gestures during a news conference at the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson look at a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, as they arrive to a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Cem Ozdel/Pool
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