Jen Psaki Defends T.J. Ducklo Suspension over Three Weeks After Incident with Female Reporter

The White House

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended her decision to merely suspend her deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo on Friday, but only after a report publicly detailed a threatening conversation he had with a female reporter.

“I take this very seriously,” Psaki said. “I’m a woman, obviously, but I’ve been in this town working in press and communications for nearly 20 years.”

On Inauguration Day, Ducklo threatened to “destroy” Politico reporter Tara Palmeri during a phone conversation after she called his girlfriend and Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond, to discuss their romantic relationship for a story. He also accused Palmeri of focusing on the story because she was “jealous” of a man in the past who wanted to “fuck” his now-girlfriend rather than her. Shortly after the incident, a Politico editor reached out to Psaki about the threatening conversation with their reporter, and Ducklo apologized to Palmeri.

Details of the incident were published Friday for the first time by Vanity Fair, even though the conversation occurred more than three weeks ago.

The story outraged Washington, DC, reporters, many of whom voiced their opinions publicly on social media before the White House press briefing.

CNN’s White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins questioned Psaki about Ducklo’s suspension during the briefing, asking her why she would allow her deputy to continue in his job despite the sexist nature of his conversation with a female reporter.

Psaki defended her decision to suspend Ducklo for one week without pay as an acceptable punishment.

“That’s not behavior that we will tolerate,” she said. “So those were the steps that were taken, and we felt it was a serious punishment.”

Psaki clarified that Ducklo was not speaking about any White House policy in his conversation.

“He had a heated conversation about a story related to his personal life,” Psaki said. “I’m not saying that’s acceptable, but I just want to be clear that this was not about an issue related to the White House.”

Bloomberg reporter Josh Wingrove reminded Psaki of President Joe Biden’s promise to fire employees “on the spot” if they ever spoke down to a colleague.

“It doesn’t meet our standard. It doesn’t meet the president’s standard,” Psaki agreed but said that the one-week suspension would be enough to send the message that it was unacceptable.

When Psaki was asked why she did not punish Ducklo until after the story went public, she replied, “That was how we engaged in a private manner and that was what we felt was appropriate at the time.”


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