President Joe Biden’s deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo resigned Saturday, unable to survive the scandal of verbally abusing a female reporter on the phone.
“No words can express my regret, my embarrassment, and my disgust for my behavior,” Ducklo wrote in his resignation statement, admitting that his conversation was “abhorrent, disrespectful, and unacceptable.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki accepted Ducklo’s resignation in a statement on Saturday evening.
“We are committed to striving every day to meet the standard set by the President in treating others with dignity and respect, with civility and with a value for others through our words and our actions,” she said, noting that senior staff spoke with Ducklo about the incident on Saturday evening.
The incident between Ducklow and Politico reporter Tara Palmeri began on January 20th on Biden’s Inauguration Day.
In a phone conversation with Palmeri, Ducklo threatened to “destroy” her after she called his girlfriend and Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond, to discuss their romantic relationship for a story.
McCammond is a reporter for Axios and a NBC/MSNBC contributor and covered the 2020 Biden campaign.
Ducklo 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. He also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with his girlfriend.
Ducklo did not publicly deny the allegations.
“I used language that no woman should ever have to hear from anyone, especially in a situation where she was just trying to do her job,” Ducklo wrote in his resignation statement.
The conversation was off-the-record, but Palmeri reported her concerns about the abusive comments to her editor, who contacted Ducklo’s boss, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, about the incident.
Senior White House officials, including Psaki, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, and Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn apologized for the incident in a call with Politico editors and Ducklo issued a private written apology.
But the same White House officials also expressed their disappointment that Palmeri broke an off-the-record agreement with Ducklo. Ducklo then shared details of his relationship with McCammond to People magazine.
After details of the conversation went public on Friday in Vanity Fair, Psaki announced that she would suspend Ducklo without pay for a week and that he would no longer work with Politico reporters in the future.
“That’s not behavior that we will tolerate,” Psaki said during the White House press briefing after the suspension. “So those were the steps that were taken, and we felt it was a serious punishment.”
The story outraged Washington, DC, reporters, many of whom voiced their opinions publicly on social media and during the White House press briefing. Even after the punishment, prominent journalists pressed for Ducklo’s resignation, criticizing his behavior as sexist and unacceptable.
Other media figures reminded the White House of President Joe Biden’s promise to fire employees “on the spot” if they ever spoke down or mistreated a colleague.
Psaki clarified during the briefing on Friday 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.”
Ducklo expressed regret for his conduct in his resignation statement.
“I am devastated to have embarrassed and disappointed my White House colleagues and President Biden and after a discussion with White House communications leadership tonight,” he wrote. “I resigned my position and will not be returning from administrative leave.”
My statement on resigning from the White House. pic.twitter.com/3Jpiiv75vB
— TJ Ducklo (@TDucklo) February 14, 2021