UPDATE, Feb. 14, 2021: Following the publication of this article, T.J. Ducklo and the White House announced his resignation from the Biden administration. This story remains below as originally published:
When President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, he vowed that anyone in the White House found breaking the rules would be immediately fired.
But when an aide threatened a reporter that same day, nothing happened — until news of the incident got out.
And even then, according to Vanity Fair, the punishment was simply a one-week suspension.
Biden had claimed he would set a high standard of conduct when virtually swearing-in White House staff members in January.
“I am not joking when I say this: If you are ever working 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,” he told his aides when he took office, according to an NBC’s “Today” report.
But that’s not what took place on Inauguration Day when Politico reporter Tara Palmeri asked questions of White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo about his dating relationship with Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond.
Palmeri contacted McCammond for comment, while a fellow male reporter from Politico contacted Ducklo separately regarding the relationship.
In an attempt to push back against the story, Ducklo contacted a Politico editor and was told to talk to the reporter who reached out seeking his comments.
Instead, according to two sources Vanity Fair did not name, Ducklo called Palmeri to give her a simple message: “I will destroy you.”
Ducklo also told Palmeri he would ruin her reputation, should she publish the story.
Ducklo further made what Vanity Fair called “derogatory and misogynistic comments” during an off-the-record phone call with Palmeri, saying she was only motivated to run the story by jealousy due to a situation in the past in which an unidentified man supposedly said he preferred McCammond over Palmeri.
However, the outlet reported that Palmeri had no previous connection with McCammond and had been assigned the story, rather than choosing it for herself.
Politico then became involved in conversations with White House press secretary Jen Psaki, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield and Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn, regarding the unprofessional conduct.
Initially, a note of apology to Palmeri was proposed as the solution, but the White House also expressed its irritation with Palmeri and Politico for making the conversation public.
Only after the story was published did the White House issue a public response through Psaki, which the press secretary posted to her Twitter account on Friday.
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.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 12, 2021
With the approval of the White House Chief of Staff, he has been placed on a one-week suspension without pay. In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 12, 2021
“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,” she wrote.
“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. In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico,” Psaki’s Twitter thread concluded.
The incident caused a buzz among other users on Twitter.
After reading the initial @politico playbook story – which is famed for DC social buzz – one has to question Ducklo’s temperament. They had already been public on social channels about the relationship. So it was, as Palmieri said an “open secret”. (2/ )
— Craig Stevens (@Stevens_NH) February 13, 2021
The problem is his boss, the President, said 100% not tolerated. Immediate firing. But hey, that’s just talk now ??♀️ FWIW, Jake Tapper believes her gender was absolutely a factor with how he addressed her. https://t.co/5n4IozyrxR
— Terrence Maddoux (@Jrizzell) February 12, 2021
“The McCammond-Ducklo-Palmeri debacle is part of a broader story about the Biden admin’s antagonistic relationship with the press, which isn’t as overtly hostile as the previous administration, but more underhandedly contentious.” By @evepeyser for @NYMag: https://t.co/pMYESGeQDh
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2021
As Vanity Fair reported, “Ducklo’s alleged response to Politico’s reporting raises serious questions about behavior that is tolerated in the Biden White House.”
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