Press secretary Jen Psaki was confronted during a press briefing on Friday while being put on the spot concerning the one-week suspension of White House aide TJ Ducklo for threatening a journalist after President Biden had vowed to fire aides “on the spot” for harassment.
Ducklo reportedly told Politico reporter Tara Palmeri “I will destroy you,” after being questioned about his relationship with Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond. Ducklo allegedly threatened that he would ruin the reporter’s reputation if she published the story, accused her of being jealous of his relationship and brought up her sex life.
When asked about Ducklo’s remarks and why he was suspended instead of being fired, Psaki deflected by saying his actions were “completely unacceptable.” She would not address why he was not fired, as the president had promised. “No one wants anyone to feel uncomfortable, to be put in an uncomfortable position,” she pointed out.
“We felt it was a serious punishment,” Psaki insisted. Many would contend that a one-week suspension without pay is no more than a slap on the wrist, not an actual attempt to hold Ducklo accountable for intimidating and threatening a reporter.
(Video Credit: The Hill)
Biden made his vow on Inauguration Day as he swore in appointees:
“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,” he promised. “On the spot. No ifs, and, or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) February 12, 2021
Ducklo, who is a former NBC communications director, reportedly apologized to Palmeri and when he returns to work he will not be allowed to work with Politico reporters, Psaki explained.
“TJ Ducklo has apologized to the reporter, with whom he had a heated conversation about his personal life,” Psaki tweeted. “He is the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President.”
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
“We’ve reached out at every level there to convey our apology, and have been clear this will never happen again, and it is not going to be tolerated here at the White House,” Psaki reiterated.
But she waffled over the hot mess and would not answer direct questions concerning Biden’s remarks on Jan. 20. Instead, she said that the aide’s punishment was appropriate.
“It doesn’t meet our standard, it doesn’t meet the president’s standard,” Psaki stated. “It was important that we took a step to make that clear and that included not just an apology directly from him and apologies directly from us at the highest levels there, but also a step to suspend him for one week without pay. That, in our view, was an important step to send the message that we don’t find it acceptable.”
Psaki appeared to have some difficulty navigating these questions, and fell back on noting that she’s also a woman, as if gender should determine how seriously someone takes the unprofessional behavior of a White House official.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2021
Psaki also stated that she had not discussed Ducklo’s behavior or his punishment directly with Biden.
A number of journalists appeared to be very upset over the incident, aligning with the Politico reporter and not happy with the Biden administration’s response. Many comments on Twitter called out the lack of a stronger follow-up.
Biden has broken his promise about firing anyone who mistreats others
Ducklo sexually harassed a female reporter and Psaki covered it up for weeks
Biden’s word is worthless https://t.co/obMVi79uDb
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) 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
Sec’y Psaki, the President said, in no uncertain terms, that that kind of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in his administration. He said that people that “talked down” to others on his watch would be terminated right away. This was on video. Why is Mr. Ducklo still employed?
— Jim Rubin (Wear a mask, FFS!) (@JamesRubin1) February 13, 2021
You can bet this is not the first time Ducklo has threatened and demeaned a woman, and it won’t be the last. Huge mistake by Jen Psaki not to fire him.
— louisa may (@Louisa_May_) February 13, 2021
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