An exchange with a Politico reporter led white house aide to resign after his derogatory and threatening comments made headlines. Politico reporter, Tara Palmeri, and her male co worker contacted white house aide, TJ Ducklo, while writing an article about his relationship with a reporter who was assigned to cover the white house. This was an assigned story not one the reporters were pursuing independently. Ducklo, who did not want the story to be run, contacted Palmeri. The phone call was full of threats and offensive language such as Ducklo telling Palmeri things like “I will destroy you” referring to her career. 

i will destroy you

Whitehouse aide blows up at reporter 

Tara Palmeri is the co-author of Politico’s Playbook newsletter. She was given an assignment to write about the potential conflict of interest that is raised by the relationship between whitehouse aide, TJ Ducklo, and Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond, who covered the Biden campaign according to vanity fair. Both Palmeri and her male co-worker contacted Ducklo but he called Palmeri shortly after Biden’s inauguration in January. According to Vanity Fair, during the off-the-record call Ducklo made derogatory and misogynistic comments. He accused Palmeri of only reporting his relationship because she was “jealous” that an unidentified man in the past had wanted McCammond and not her. Ducklo also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond. Ducklo also threatened to end Palmeri’s career if she ran the story saying “I will destroy you.” All of this is coming weeks after President Biden issued a statement on his first day in office about the standards he expects from his staff in regards to how they treat people. 

Does the standard apply to white house aides 

His first day in office President Biden issued a statement saying “I am not joking when I say this: If you are 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. No ifs, ands, or buts,”  Playbook highlighted this and asked, “Serious question on our minds this morning: Does this standard apply to how mid-level press aides treat reporters?” After the initial incident Politico editors contacted White House staff the following day. When those calls were finished Ducklo sent Palmeri an email apologizing. He was then suspended for a week without pay and told he would not be allowed to work with any Politico reporters. Whitehouse secretary Jenn Psaki said “And that, in our view, was a — was an important step to send the message that we don’t find it acceptable,”  referring to not working with anymore Politico reporters. She also called the one-week suspension a “serious punishment.” This seems like a step down from Biden’s promises but Psaki did not acknowledge why Ducklo would not be dismissed. In response to the incident Ducklo has decided to resign. 

White house aide resigns over “I Will Destroy You” threat 

The White House announced Ducklo’s resignation. “We accepted the resignation of TJ Ducklo after a discussion with him this evening,” Jen Psaki said in a statement. The conversation occurred with the support of the White House chief of staff, Ron Klain. Psaki added the White House was committed to treating others with dignity and respect. Ducklo posted on Twitter saying he wanted to “learn from it and do better.”  He also said “I used language that no woman should ever have to hear from anyone, especially in a situation where she was just trying to do her job.” 

There has so far been no comment from Palmeri regarding the incident. The White House says the incident was over Ducklo’s personal life not over their policies and does not align with how they want to treat people. They did not comment on why it took so long for action to be taken and struggled to answer questions regarding Ducklo working with female reporters in the future; both of these issues were fixed by Ducklo’s resignation. 

Written by: Erinn Malloy

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