White House suspends deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo for threatening reporter

Ross Houston
February 14, 2021

An official on President Joe Biden's staff was suspended Friday after allegedly threatening to "destroy" a reporter who was asking about his personal life.

White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo has resigned, the day after he was suspended for issuing a sexist and profane threat to a journalist seeking to cover his relationship with another reporter.

According to Vanity Fair magazine, Ducklo called up Politico reporter Tara Palmeri after she began asking questions about his months-old personal relationship with a reporter from Politico rival Axios, Alexi McCammond.

Citing two unnamed sources familiar with the incident, Vanity Fair reported that Ducklo told Palmeri, "I will destroy you", and that he would ruin her reputation if she published the article about him and McCammond.

According to the report, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn "acknowledged that Ducklo's handling of the call with Palmeri was inappropriate" but also "took aim at Palmeri by accusing her of breaking an off-the-record agreement with Ducklo". "He is the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President". Ducklo will be placed on a one-week suspension without pay, and when he returns he will not interact with reporters at Politico.

Psaki told reporters that she had made the decision to punish Ducklo - with the approval of White House chief of staff Ron Klain - and that she had not discussed it with Biden.

On the day President Joe Biden was sworn in last month, the new commander in chief warned in an address to 1,000 presidential appointees that he would fire them "on the spot", if he heard of disrespectful conduct in a professional capacity.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki. "No ifs, ands, or buts", the president said during his first day in the White House.

And Biden's mouthpiece appeared to excuse Ducklo's behaviour as the result of a "heated conversation about a story related to his personal life". Ducklo then continued in a demeaning tirade to intimidate Palmeri from pursuing the story, Vanity Fair reported. Here is the extent of coverage found on the website, authored not by McCammond, but by political reporter Hans Nichols.

"Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity", Biden said. When asked about the delay at Friday's briefing, Psaki said they were dealing with Politico privately and that's what they thought was appropriate at the time.

"It was important that we took a step to make that clear", she said.

The apologies offered by her team, along with Ducklo's weeklong suspension, were "an important step to send the message that we don't find it acceptable", Psaki added. "And that included not just an apology directly from him, and apologies directly from us at the highest levels there, but also a step to suspend him for one week without pay".

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