A top White House spokesperson has been hit with a one-week suspension without pay after news reports revealed that he threatened to “destroy” a reporter who was looking into his relationship with another journalist.
According to a Friday report from The Associated Press, White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo is out of a job — for the next week, at least — after a bombshell report from Vanity Fair revealed that he’d made “derogatory and misogynistic comments” to Politico’s Tara Palmeri.
It’s a scandal that now seems to be rocking the West Wing from all angles, as members of the media and individuals on both sides of the political aisle expected the Biden administration to go much further in punishing Ducklo for his inflammatory and offensive remarks.
“I will destroy you”
According to Vanity Fair, it all began on Inauguration Day, when Palmeri reached out to a reporter said to be dating the White House staffer, “while one of her male colleagues left a message for Ducklo.” After calling an editor “to object to the story,” Ducklo went to Palmeri herself, reportedly trying to “intimidate” her “by phone.”
“I will destroy you,” Ducklo told Palmeri, according to Vanity Fair‘s reporting.
News of the heated exchange didn’t leak until weeks later — and though the White House reportedly knew about the incident when it happened, they waited until it went public to hand down any consequences.
In a statement to the press, Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Ducklo had “apologized to the reporter” and “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,” Psaki said, according to Vanity Fair. “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.”
“No ifs, ands, or buts”
For many, it wasn’t a tough enough punishment — especially considering that President Joe Biden recently vowed that “disrespect” wouldn’t be tolerated on his watch. According to the AP, Biden told staffers on his inauguration day:
I’m not joking when I say this: If you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I will fire you on the spot… No ifs, ands, or buts.
The White House’s treatment of Ducklo seems to stand in stark contrast to that message — and members of the media haven’t been shy about speaking up about it.
Even The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman couldn’t help but say the quiet part out loud:
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