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Last week, we reported on how Joe Biden’s (now former) deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo was dating Axios reporter and MSNBC contributor Alexi McCammond. Their relationship raised conflict of interest and ethics questions, especially since McCammond used to be assigned to the Biden beat (she’s now on the Harris beat).
A few days after the story made waves, another one broke about how Ducklo allegedly threatened to “destroy” Politico reporter Tara Palmeri last month for working on a story about his relationship with McCammond. According to Vanity Fair sources, Ducklo used his position in the Biden administration to try and intimidate Palmeri into not running the story. “I will destroy you,” Ducklo told her on Inauguration Day:
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*ck” McCammond “and not you.” Ducklo also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond.
In response to the Vanity Fair report, Biden’s White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced a one-week suspension for Ducklo, which the administration apparently thought was enough. But it wasn’t, not to people who remembered Biden’s promise to fire anyone “on the spot” who did what Ducklo did. A day later, Ducklo resigned.
During today’s White House press briefing, Psaki was asked by NBC News reporter Peter Alexander if Biden’s position on firing someone “on the spot” for disrespecting someone else changed considering that’s not the action that was taken in this case, and here’s what Psaki had to say:
"He's no longer employed here, and I think that speaks for itself," Psaki says about departure of White House aide TJ Ducklo for threats to female reporter. Ducklo received a week's suspension and later resigned, despite Biden pledge to fire anyone "on the spot" for disrespect pic.twitter.com/GUOPha2Dgw
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 16, 2021
Um, no. It most definitely does not “speak for itself” as she’s trying to frame it, especially when you consider not only Biden’s Inauguration Day comments about firing someone “on the spot” for talking down to someone, but also when you consider that the Biden administration’s initial response was a one-week suspension, not a firing:
Needless to say, this did not answer the reporter's question if Biden's promise to "fire on the spot" any staffer who disrespected colleagues has changed.
Ducklo only resigned after the White House initially gave him a one-week suspension for threatening a reporter.
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 16, 2021
The timeline here is important because the White House was made aware of Ducklo’s comments the day after he is said to have made them, according to Vanity Fair:
The following day, an editor at Politico reached out to the White House about Ducklo’s threats, 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. In one of those calls, senior White House officials 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. In another conversation, the same White House officials took aim at Palmeri by accusing her of breaking an off-the-record agreement with Ducklo and pressing Politico as to why the contents of the call had been revealed. Palmeri had only informed her editors of the contents of the call, which she had transcribed into her notes as it was happening, after they asked her about it.
The facts matter here, and the facts are as follows:
the WH did exactly nothing about Ducklo until it became public knowledge, and even then it gave him only a slap on the wrist. after THAT, ducklo resigned. not sure how any of this reflects well on the guy who said he’d fire subordinates “on the spot” for Ducklo-esque behavior. https://t.co/3PsCjkWRG5
— tsar becket adams (@BecketAdams) February 16, 2021
Sitting on the information for three weeks with no action then a one week suspension once it goes public outside your control speak enormous volumes. https://t.co/4PrMcFT2px
— Jeff Pollock (@freddyandfrieda) February 16, 2021
Maybe Psaki was right in one respect with her comments from today’s briefing. The White House’s response does indeed “speak for itself” – but not in the bogus “Biden is a man of his word” way she’s insinuating it does.