Report: Biden Aide T.J. Ducklo Threatened to ‘Destroy’ Politico Reporter for Story on His Relationship With Axios Journalist

White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo listens as press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

T.J. Ducklo, President Joe Biden’s deputy press secretary, is accused of threatening Politico reporter Tara Palmeri for working on a story regarding his relationship with Axios journalist Alexi McCammond, according to a Friday report.

Vanity Fair reports: 

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.

Hours following Vanity Fair‘s report, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that Ducklo (pictured) would not be fired and instead be placed on a one-week suspension without pay.

“TJ 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 wrote on Twitter. “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,” the White House official added. “In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.”

Ducklo has yet to issue a statement addressing the controversy. Palmeri has remained mum as well.

The White House’s decision to keep Ducklo appears to violate a pledge made by Biden to terminate members of his administration who conduct themselves disrespectfully towards others. In a January 21 video conference, Biden assured staff that his administration will lead with “core American values” and “humility and trust.”

“Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity,” Biden said. “That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”

“I am not joking when I say this … if you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect … talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot … on the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts,” the president warned.

At the start of the Biden administration, Psaki told reporters she had a “deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy.”

“There will be moments when we disagree, and there will certainly be days where we disagree for extensive parts of the briefing even, perhaps,” she stated. “But we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”

 

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