TJ Ducklo has resigned from his position as White House deputy press secretary following a brief controversy over the appropriate punishment after he threatened a reporter. Ducklo had initially been suspended for one week without pay on Friday after Vanity Fair came out with a story revealing he had threatened Politico’s Tara Palmeri. The move sparked backlash as some said the punishment wasn’t strong enough, particularly considering President Joe Biden had vowed that anyone on his team who showed disrespect would be fired. (Slate’s Dan Kois wrote a piece Friday headlined, “Just Fire TJ Ducklo!”)
Press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Saturday night Ducklo had resigned. “We accepted the resignation of TJ Ducklo after a discussion with him this evening,” Psaki said in a statement. “We are committed to striving every day to meet the standard set by the President in treating others with dignity and respect, with civility and with a value for others through our words and our actions.” Ducklo also issued a statement. “No words can express my regret, my embarrassment, and my disgust for my behavior. 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. It was language that was abhorrent, disrespectful and unacceptable,” he said. Ducklo went on to say he is determined to “earn back the trust of everyone I have let down because of my intolerable actions.”
The resignation came a day after Vanity Fair reported that Ducklo made “derogatory and misogynistic comments” toward Palmeri in an off-the-record call as she reported on a story about his relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond. Among other things, Ducklo reportedly said Palmeri was “jealous” of their relationship and added she was jealous that an unidentified man “wanted to fuck” McCammond “and not you.” He also warned that he would ruin her reputation if she went forward with the story. “I will destroy you,” he reportedly said. People published a sympathetic profile of their relationship on Monday.
When she announced the suspension, Psaki said Ducklo’s behavior was “completely unacceptable,” but she took pains to emphasize he reacted to a story about his personal life. “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,” she said. Some, however, said that the suspension did not square with the standard Biden had set early in his administration. “I’m not joking when I say this,” Biden told employees on his first day in office. “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 ifs, ands or buts. Everybody—everybody—is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.”