WASHINGTON — White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo has been suspended for one week without pay after a report from Vanity Fair surfaced he threatened a female reporter last month, press secretary Jen Psaki announced Friday.
Vanity Fair reported Friday that Ducklo threatened Politico reporter Tara Palmeri on January 20 after one of her colleagues reached out for comment on a story about his relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, who was previously covering Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Citing two unnamed sources, Vanity Fair reported Ducklo told Palmeri, “I will destroy you,” and threatened to ruin her reputation if she published the article about him and McCammond. He then accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of the relationship.
Friday’s daily press briefing was delayed two hours but Psaki tweeted out a statement on the matter, confirming Ducklo’s suspension.
Psaki called Ducklo’s comments “unacceptable” at Friday’s briefing. She was asked by reporters on more than one occasion about Ducklo’s future at the White House and him working with female reporters in the future.
“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,” Psaki said. “That in our view… was an important to step send the message that we don’t find it acceptable.”
Psaki also noted White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield reached out on several occasions to the Politico Playbook editor “immediately after” Ducklo’s and Palmeri’s conversation.
“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,” she said.
Psaki said in addition to the apology, Ducklo expressed “profound regret” in a note to Palmeri after the incident. The note read: “Last night on the phone with you I lost my temper in a way that was unprofessional, and I apologize for that. I should have done a better job at keeping my emotions in check during our conversation. It won’t happen again.”
It was not clear why Ducklo had only been suspended on Friday following the Vanity Fair story being published when the incident in question happened over a month ago. Psaki was asked about that during Friday’s briefing and confirmed the White House also reached out to Palmeri privately.
“That was how we engaged, in a private manner,” she said. “And that was what we felt was appropriate at the time.”
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden promised to fire employees on the spot if they were disrespectful to anyone.
“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. No ifs, ands, or buts,” he said.
Politico Editor-In-Chief Matt Kaminski and Editor Carrie Budoff Brown released a statement, raising their concerns with White House staff about Ducklo’s behavior.
“No journalist at Politico —or any other publication or network — should ever be subjected to such unfounded personal attacks while doing their job,” they said. “Politico reporters and editors are committed to forging a professional and transparent relationship with public office holders and their staff and expect the same in return.”