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As my colleague Nick Arama reported Friday, the Biden administration has been on a “unity” offensive, as evidenced by the tacky hearts on the White House lawn for Valentine’s Day, to distract from a story that shows they’ve “failed the unity test and are far from loving.”
That story would be the horrifying manner in which TJ Ducklo, a communications aide at the White House, treated Politico reporter Tara Palmeri when she was working on a story about Ducklo’s romantic relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, who covered the Joe Biden campaign.
At the time (right after the inauguration), the relationship hadn’t been reported at any outlet. Palmeri called McCammond for comment, while one of her male colleagues called Ducklo. Instead of returning the male colleague’s call, and instead of allowing McCammond to reply to Palmeri, Ducklo called Palmeri and threatened to “destroy” her and ruin her reputation if she proceeded with the story.
As Vanity Fair reported:
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.” Ducklo also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond.
Palmeri’s bosses alerted White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to Ducklo’s conduct, and while Psaki and Communications Director Kate Bedingfield expressed displeasure that he’d acted that way and said he would apologize, they tsk-tsk’d Palmeri for “revealing the contents of an off-record discussion.” Oh, so she was just supposed to roll with the threats?
It turned out that Politico didn’t write about the relationship until after it was revealed in a puff piece in People Magazine. It looks like the White House knew that the relationship would come out at some point so they controlled its release. Vanity Fair then revealed the story behind the story, and all Jen Psaki could say was, “This isn’t acceptable, he apologized, and let’s move on.” No discipline, no penalty.
People quickly pointed out that this is not the way Biden said he would handle such issues. Just three weeks earlier Biden said:
“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. No if, ands, or buts. Everybody — everybody is entitled to be treated with decency & dignity.”
The backlash hit hard, and it was announced Friday that Ducklo had been placed on a one-week, unpaid suspension. That doesn’t quite square with Biden’s promise, and people were still outraged.
It’s clear that outrage was heard all the way to the White House, because Saturday the White House announced Ducklo had handed in his resignation.
BREAKING: WH accepts resignation of TJ Ducklo.
For those keeping score, he lasted 1.5 Scaramuccis. pic.twitter.com/V2kZh9VwUa
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) February 14, 2021
Poor TJ. His misogyny got him canceled more than anything, because we all know that threatening reporters is how this White House rolls.
Ducklo tweeted a statement shortly after the White House’s press release.
My statement on resigning from the White House. pic.twitter.com/3Jpiiv75vB
— TJ Ducklo (@TDucklo) February 14, 2021
In it he is adamant that “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.”
One wonders if his new girlfriend will still stay with him?