White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo has been suspended one week without pay for what the Biden team is calling "a heated conversation" with Politico reporter Tara Palmeri while she was trying to report on his relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, a detail revealed in a sympathetic People piece earlier this week. The release claims Ducklo is "the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President."
The action comes after Vanity Fair this morning published a piece detailing the exchanges between Ducklo and Palmeri, which led to conversations between the outlet's editors and the White House.
"Ducklo subsequently called a Playbook editor to object to the story, but was told to call the Playbook reporters with his concerns. 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. (Palmeri had no prior relationship or communication with McCammond before calling her to report on the Playbook item, which was a story that she was assigned and had not independently pursued.) "
This is the first public test for the Biden White House after the president made it known that he'd fire appointees "on the spot" if they disrespected others. That promise doesn't exactly comport with real-world action. And if the details of the Vanity Fair story are accurate, a one-week suspension without pay hardly seems like a congruent punishment.
Threats to destroy and ruin reputations in a vindictive manner are tough to put back in the tube. And yet here we are.