WH press official Ducklo who threatened reporter takes dive, resigns as Biden takes heat for initial leniency

White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo has resigned following reports on Friday he threatened and verbally abused a Politico reporter.

Ducklo was placed on a one-week suspension without pay by the White House following a report that he contacted Politico Playbook correspondent Tara Palmeri and threatened to “destroy” her while also using disparaging, derogatory language. Palmeri was following a lead that Ducklo was having a romantic relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammon, who was covering then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign.


“We accepted the resignation of TJ Ducklo after a discussion with him this evening. This conversation occurred with the support of the White House Chief of Staff,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Saturday night. “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.”

In his own statement on Twitter, Ducklo accepted responsibility and faulted himself for using “abhorrent, disrespectful, and unacceptable” language.

“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, I resigned my position and will not be returning from administrative leave,” he continued. 

“I know this was terrible. I know I can’t take it back. But I also know I can learn from it and do better. This incident is not representative of who I am as a person and I will be determined to earn back the trust of everyone I have let down because of my intolerable actions,” he added.

On Friday as the scandal exploded, the Biden administration moved quickly to suspend Ducklo.

“TJ Ducklo has apologized to the reporter, with whom he had a heated conversation about his personal life,” Psaki said in a statement. “He is the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President.”

“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,” she added.

But the White House was criticized for what many saw as extremely lenient given President Biden’s vow to White House and federal staffers he wouldn’t tolerate disrespectful behavior by his administration.

Initially, Psaki defended the decision, telling reporters Friday, “This, in our view, was an important step to send the message that we don’t find this acceptable.”

The ordeal began on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, when Palmeri reached out to McCammond for comment on her then-alleged relationship with Ducklo, which many viewed as problematic and unethical considering he was an administration press liaison. 

A male Politico colleague reached out to Ducklo, but he instead contacted Palmeri to respond.

“I will destroy you,” he told Palmeri, according to Vanity Fair, which originally published the account. 

“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 f**k’ McCammond ‘and not you,’” Vanity Fair reported.

Politico officials contacted the White House to lodge a complaint, which resulted in Ducklo apologizing to Palmeri and his suspension.

Ducklo’s relationship was eventually disclosed in a puff piece published by People magazine. In it, the magazine reported that she was taken off the Biden beat by Axios after disclosing her relationship with Ducklo in November, but she was nevertheless assigned to cover “progressive” politicians as well as Vice President Kamala Harris.

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Jon Dougherty

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