In an apparent reference to President Donald Trump Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that by accepting their leaders deceptions -- or "alternative realities" -- Americans risked losing their freedom. 


What: “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,” Tillerson said in a graduation address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.


“When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth, even on what may seem the most trivial of matters, we go wobbly on America.”


The speech was among Tillerson's first public remarks since he was fired by Trump in March after a year of policy disputes with the White House. While he did not mention the president by name, Tillerson railed against “a growing crisis in ethics and integrity” in American public life.


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


“It is also that foundational commitment to truth and facts that binds us to other like-minded democratic nations -- that we Americans will always deal with them from the same set of truths and facts. And it is truth that says to our adversaries, we say what we mean, and we mean what we say.”

Why: Tillerson apparently felt ready to speak more freely about his views of the president, whom he reportedly ​called a "fucking moron" in private while in office. And he was on solid ground in suggesting the White House has a problem with the truth. 


Trump has frequently lied and misstated the facts. At the very start of his presidency, he ​claimed that his January 2017 inauguration was the biggest ever, despite indisputable proof to the contrary. 


In April, the president claimed not to know anything about a $130,000 payment his personal attorney Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to keep her from talking about her alleged affair with Trump. But Rudolph Giuliani, a new Trump attorney, last month said Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment. 


Trump seemed to confirm as much in a tweet the following day, and in an ethics disclosure Wednesday, he acknowledged repaying Cohen more than $100,000 for an undisclosed purpose.


On the other hand: Tillerson, a Texas oil man, has made clear that he is bitter about his treatment in Washington, DC, which he ​said in his farewell speech to the State Department "can be a very mean-spirited town." If America is in crisis, why didn't he say anything until after he got canned?