A number of U.S. media outlets reported that he learned of his firing as secretary of state the same way many Americans did - from a tweet by President Donald Trump unveiling Mike Pompeo as his new top diplomat.
Trump announced his decision on Twitter.
"When Mike is over in, say, the Koreas or over dealing with Russian Federation or the Middle East, I think people are going to know that he speaks for the president".
Secretary of State Tillerson had just returned from a trip to several countries in Africa, and reportedly learned he'd been fired through the President's tweet.
"Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the first woman so chosen".
By projecting weakness to Pyongyang, Tillerson was undercutting Trump's message of strength - and thus making war more likely.
After hours of bureaucratic tug-of-war, Tillerson, in his final somber turn before the cameras, said he would be delegating his responsibilities to deputy secretary John Sullivan at the end of the workday and would resign effective at the end of the month.
Tillerson's dismissal capped months of friction between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive.
He was repeatedly forced to deny he had fallen out with Trump - vowing to remain in post despite a sensational report that he once dubbed the president a "moron".More news: India is world's largest arms importer
The reason for the latest rift was unclear, but Trump and Tillerson have often appeared at odds over policies such as the nuclear deal with Iran and the tone of U.S. diplomacy. Last September, two months after Trump's decision, Tillerson said the US would consider staying in the accord "under the right conditions".
In her appointment past year as deputy director, Haspel garnered praise from high-level Obama-era and Bush-era appointees, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden. "When you look at the Iran deal: I think it's awful, I guess he thinks it was OK". I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently. "I really appreciate his commitment to service and I'll be speaking to Rex over a long period of time".
"Rex is a good man, I like him a lot and I wish him good things, but I think he will be happier now".
It also should move the White House to fill key vacancies at the State Department that Tillerson had no use for, and it should give Americas allies more confidence that greater weight is being placed on diplomacy in breaking the Korean impasse than on unpresidential taunts over who has the biggest nuclear button.
If confirmed by the US Senate after an April committee hearing, Pompeo will be taking over a State Department shaken by the departures of many senior diplomats and embittered by proposed budget cuts.
Tillerson held a press conference Tuesday afternoon and revealed that he received a call from President Trump several hours after learning he was sacked on Twitter.
Mike Pompeo now awaits confirmation from the Senate.
"I know Gina personally, and she has the right skill set, experience and judgment to lead one of our nation's most critical agencies", Burr said.