White House Deputy Press Secretary suspended over threats made to reporter

Katie Ramirez
February 14, 2021

The story, which has now been reported, was of Biden's Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo dating Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond, who covered the Biden campaign and is still on the vice president's beat.

President Donald Trump's White House was known for an adversarial relationship with reporters, and both Trump himself and his lead spokespeople would frequently pick fights with and lob personal attacks at reporters from behind the podium.

"I will destroy you", Ducklo said, according to reports in Vanity Fair.

"TJ Ducklo has apologized to the reporter, with whom he had a heated conversation about his personal life", she wrote.

The 32-year-old press aide also reportedly told Palmeri she was only writing the story because she was "jealous" and that an unnamed man previously "wanted to f--" McCammond "and not you", despite Palmeri having no prior encounters with McCammond before contacting her for the piece.

It's the first departure from the new administration, less than a month into President Joe Biden's tenure, and it comes as the White House was facing criticism for not living up to standards set by Biden himself in their decision to retain Ducklo.

At that point, Ducklo called Palmeri instead of her colleague, and allegedly during this phone conversation he attempted to intimidate and threaten her by claiming he would ruin her reputation.

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Psaki said she had not discussed the matter with Biden, but had consulted with the White House chief of staff.

"In addition to his initial apology, he has sent the reporter a personal note expressing his profound regret". Politico editor-in-chief Matt Kaminski and editor Carrie Budoff Brown said in a statement they had "raised our concerns about the incident directly with the White House at the time". The suspension, Psaki said, "was an important step to send the message that we don't find this acceptable".

Psaki, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and Anita Dunn, director of West Wing operations, were all reportedly involved in conversations with Politico editors about the incident.

"If you're 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 - on the spot". "So those were the steps that were taken and we felt it was a serious punishment". "No ifs, ands or buts", Biden told his staff on Inauguration Day.

The President's spokeswoman tweeted on Friday that Ducklo was "the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President".

"It was important that we took a step to make that clear", she said.

A day after being sworn in as president, Biden warned his White House staff against mistreating others.

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