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White House deputy press secretary threatened to 'destroy' reporter for investigating relationship with journalist, explosive report says


The White House communications team member was suspended for a week, despite Biden promising to fire any staff who was disrespectful

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo allegedly threatened to "destroy" a Politico reporter for investigating his relationship with a political journalist, according to an explosive report from Vanity Fair.

The romantic relationship between Ducklo and Axios journalist Alexi McCammond was revealed this week in People magazine. McCammond covered Biden's presidential campaign in 2019 and 2020, where she met Ducklo, who was Biden's campaign press secretary.

Politico reporter Tara Palmeri was purportedly investigating the previously secret romantic relationship between Ducklo and McCammond in January. Ducklo allegedly became hostile toward Palmeri over the investigation into his budding romance.

From Vanity Fair:

The confrontation began on Inauguration Day, January 20, after Palmeri, a coauthor of Politico's Playbook, contacted McCammond for comment while one of her male colleagues left a message for Ducklo, according to the sources. 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 the sources, adding that he would ruin her reputation if she published it.

During an off-the-record phone call, Ducklo allegedly made "derogatory and misogynistic comments" to Palmeri. Ducklo, 32, allegedly told Palmeri that she "was 'jealous' that an unidentified man in the past had 'wanted to f***' McCammond 'and not you.'" Ducklo reportedly added that Palmeri was also "jealous" of his new relationship with McCammond.

The report claimed that a Politico editor contacted the White House regarding the threats, which allegedly resulted in "spurring multiple conversations between the news outlet and senior-level officials on January 21, including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, and Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn."

White House officials reportedly "acknowledged that Ducklo's handling of the call with Palmeri was inappropriate and said he would send a note to her apologizing for the comments." The White House officials also went on offense, claiming that Palmeri broke her off-the-record agreement with Ducklo.

The White House didn't publicly acknowledge Ducklo's behavior until after the Vanity Fair piece was published Friday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement Friday afternoon on Ducklo, announcing that he was suspended for a week.

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

Just last month, President Biden vowed to fire anyone on his staff that was disrespectful or talked down to anyone.

"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," Biden said to a group of administration appointees on Inauguration Day.

"We have to restore the soul of this country," Biden told the appointees during a swearing-in ceremony. "And I'm counting on all of you to be part of that, and it's not hyperbole."

In September, Ducklo had a meltdown during an appearance on Fox News when host Bret Baier asked him if Biden ever used a teleprompter during interviews with reporters.

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