Establishment media journalists are fuming over news that Biden deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo will remain in his role after a report alleging he threatened Politico author Tara Palmeri for revealing his relationship with Axios’ Alexi McCammond.
As Vanity Fair reported Friday:
The confrontation began on Inauguration Day, January 20, after Palmeri, a coauthor of Politico’s Playbook, contacted McCammond for comment while one of her male colleagues left a message for Ducklo, according to sources. […] But instead of calling the male reporter who initially contacted him, Ducklo tried to intimidate Palmeri by phone in an effort to kill the story. “I will destroy you,” Ducklo told her, according to sources, adding that he would ruin her reputation if she published it.
During the off-the-record call, Ducklo made derogatory and misogynistic comments, accusing Palmeri of only reporting on his relationship—which, due to the ethics questions that factor into the relationship between a journalist and White House official, falls under the purview of her reporting beat—because she was “jealous” that an unidentified man in the past had “wanted to fuck” McCammond “and not you.” Ducklo also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond.
Shortly after Vanity Fair‘s report broke, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that Ducklo had apologized to the Politico reporter and would be placed on a one-week suspension without pay.
“T.J. Ducklo has apologized to the reporter, with whom he had a heated conversation about his personal life. He is the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President,” Psaki tweeted. “In addition to his initial apology, he has sent the reporter a personal note expressing his profound regret.”
“With the approval of the White House Chief of Staff, he has been placed on a one-week suspension without pay,” she added. “In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.”
Ducklo’s alleged remarks sparked outrage from reporters, with some calling for his immediate firing.
Talking OTR doesn't mean you have permission to threaten or harass someone.
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) February 12, 2021
For the record: if we’re talking off the record and you begin threatening me we are no longer talking off the record
— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) February 12, 2021
Imagine the (justifiable) reaction if someone working at the Trump White House had done this https://t.co/fq0JdBodvv
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 12, 2021
you don't say stuff like this overnight, you do it because the behavior has been tolerated and even encouraged. too many press aides think off the record is grounds for disrespect https://t.co/R3Divry1ZQ
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) February 12, 2021
"Ducklo tried to intimidate Palmeri by phone in an effort to kill the story. 'I will destroy you,' Ducklo told her, according to the sources, adding that he would ruin her reputation if she published it."
There's no universe where this shit is OK.https://t.co/YX3rMDn9iT
— Joshua Eaton (@joshua_eaton) February 12, 2021
Ducklo has to be fired. You can’t be a deputy press secretary and then say pretty terrible things to a member of the press reporting a valid story (and have your people blast that an off- record convo became public) and keep your job. You just can’t. https://t.co/BXr3IVJM7r
— Christina Warren (@film_girl) February 12, 2021
"This will never happen again. And it is not going to be tolerated here at the White House." — @PressSec on TJ Ducklo
But, isn't it already being tolerated? A one week suspension is zero tolerance?
(hat tip @DJJudd for the quote)
— Chris Cillizza (@ChrisCillizza) February 12, 2021
The Politico reporter was assigned the story. And Ducklo was perfectly happy to cooperate with a People magazine reporter. He wasn't objecting to news coverage; he just didn't want it to be rigorous reporting. And he used a highly gendered attack to try to frighten her. Not okay.
— Ted Genoways (@TedGenoways) February 12, 2021
Exactly. All else aside, the fact that Ducklo thought he could say those things to a reporter – and a high-profile reporter at that – and somehow escape punishment was just amazingly dumb. https://t.co/uuK7a28fBM
— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) February 12, 2021
Joe Biden vowed he would fire people for acting like Ducklo did.
It was an easy promise to keep, it required no GOP cooperation, all that was necessary was for Biden to not be a dick.
— Bob Brigham (@BobBrigham) February 12, 2021
What Ducklo did was wrong. No WH official should ever threaten reporters no matter which party is in power. When Trump WH officials tried to destroy the careers of reporters they were cheered internally. Trump’s use of terms like “the enemy of the people” put reporters in danger.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) February 12, 2021
This isn't enough. He needs to be fired, not only for his unethical relationship with a reporter, but for attacking another one by threatening to "destroy" her career.
By continuing to employ Ducklo, the White House is signaling approval for misogyny and unprofessionalism. https://t.co/DPLwP2uCak
— Hashem Said (@hash_said) February 12, 2021
White House deputy press Secretary T.J. Ducklo reportedly told a reporter “I will destroy you” because he didn’t want this story about him to run.
— Chenue Her (@ChenueHer) February 12, 2021
"The same White House officials took aim at Palmeri by accusing her of breaking an off-the-record agreement with Ducklo."
It's so telling that, while acknowledging Ducklo's harassment, White House flacks still think they're being wronged since his threats were "off the record". https://t.co/OyMMwSFUYv
— Nathan McDermott (@natemcdermott) February 12, 2021
What happened to being fired on the spot?
According to reports, Ducklo made threatening and misogynistic comments to a Politico reporter looking into his personal life. https://t.co/wjotTp4LLL
— Markie Martin (@MarkieMartin) February 12, 2021
"suspended for a week" is not "zero tolerance." not in any universe. tj ducklo needs to be fired.
— john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) February 12, 2021
Olivia is correct, with her conclusion. Ducklo should be removed from the press office and/or fired altogether. https://t.co/QExPXsXBs6
— Carol Blymire (@CarolBlymire) February 12, 2021
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2021
The White House response to Ducklo’s unprofessional behavior is to limit a news organization’s access to the White House. That seems to impede the news organization more than it impedes Ducklo.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2021