Nikki Haley denies rumors, says she doesn't want to be secretary of state

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks about the Iran nuclear deal at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Sept. 5, 2017.

Reuters

Last Updated Sep 21, 2017 6:19 PM EDT

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley attempted to quash rumors Thursday that is vying for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's job.

Haley, asked by a reporter if she wants to be secretary of state during a news conference at the UN General Assembly in New York, responded, "No, I do not."

But that wasn't how Haley initially responded to an initial question Thursday about her future in the administration, and speculation that she is gunning to be secretary of state.

"There is going to be chatter about things," Haley said. "Ever since I was a legislator, people have talked about what I'm trying to do or what I'm supposed to do. What I'm trying to do is do a good job. And I'm trying to be responsible in my job."

Haley's comments — which competed for air time Thursday with Tillerson's remarks at the UN — are unlikely to quiet talk of a rift between the two, and whether Haley would be a natural fit for Tillerson's role if he ever leaves the administration. 

Tillerson is present at the UN's General Assembly this week, but hasn't been front-and-center in many appearances, while Haley has played an unusually prominent role for an Ambassador to the UN. Some outlets have reported that Haley would be likely to succeed Tillerson should he leave his post. 

As one example of Haley's influence — and distance from Tillerson — it is Haley who owns the Iran foreign policy portfolio, CBS News' Kylie Atwood reports. Haley was present in a meeting with Iran this week, even though that typically isn't something the U.S. Ambassador to the UN does, and laid out the possible path for decertifying Iran in a speech that was not coordinated with Tillerson's State Department. 

Tillerson on Wednesday said he doesn't know what Mr. Trump's plan for the Iran deal is, even though Mr. Trump said he has made a decision on whether to stay in the agreement, back out of it or change it somehow. 

While Haley's profile and portfolio in the administration grows, Tillerson has run into rough patches. The former Texas oil man recently distanced himself from the president when he was asked on "Fox News Sunday" if Mr. Trump's response to the deadly events in Charlottesville, Virginia raise questions about the president's values.

"The president speaks for himself," Tillerson said in widely-circulated comments

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.