President Biden warned staffers last month that if they weren’t respectful to others their jobs would be on the line – but a press office aide accused of threatening and making misogynistic remarks to a female reporter still has his.
“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,” Biden told new aides during a swearing-in ceremony on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20. “On the spot.”
“No ifs, ands or buts – everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity,” the president continued. “That’s been missing in a big way for the last four years.”
But deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo, who is accused of making “derogatory and misogynistic” remarks to Politico reporter Tara Palmeri nearly a month ago, was merely suspended without pay for a week and told to apologize.
“I will destroy you,” Ducklo allegedly told Palmeri in an off-the-record call that also took place on Jan. 20, according to a Vanity Fair report published Friday.
The next day, Politico’s Playbook column, which Palmeri helps write, questioned whether Biden’s promise to fire disrespectful aides applied to “how mid-level press aides treat reporters.”
Both Palmeri and a male colleague separately reached out to Ducklo last month to inquire about his romantic relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, a potential conflict of interest since she was covering the White House, Vanity Fair revealed.
In the off-the-record call, Ducklo allegedly threatened to attack her reputation if she published the story and hurled profanities and other insults.
Vanity Fair reported that Ducklo accused Palmeri of jealousy and holding a grudge against McCammond.
Palmeri, meanwhile, had been assigned to cover the story as part of her job as a D.C.-based politics reporter and had never interacted with McCammond until she began work on the article.
A Politico editor reached out to the White House following the call between Ducklo and Palmeri, and Ducklo apologized, according to Vanity Fair.
That was roughly three weeks ago.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Ducklo’s boss, said President Biden took the allegations “quite seriously” Friday and said Ducklo was being suspended for a week.
Ducklo, who has apologized to Palmeri, was suspended for one week without pay and will no longer work with Politico reporters when he returns – but he remains a deputy press secretary and will continue to have interactions with women as part of his job.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Psaki “whose idea” it was for a suspensions rather than a firing at a White House news briefing Friday.
“He had a heated conversation about a story related to his personal life,” Psaki replied. “I’m not saying that’s acceptable, but I just want to be clear that it was not about an issue related to the White House or White House policy or anything along those lines.”