White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo attempted to kill a Politico story about his romantic relationship with Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond, who had covered Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. According to a Vanity Fair report, Ducklo threatened Politico reporter Tara Palmeri during a heated phone call, telling her “I will destroy you” in an effort to intimidate her from running the story.
Following the Vanity Fair story, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Ducklo had been placed on a one-week suspension and “will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.”
Ducklo also reportedly made derogatory and misogynistic comments during the off-the-record call, telling Palmeri that she was only reporting on his relationship because she was “jealous” that another man had “wanted to fuck” McCammond “and not you.”
The call prompted conversations between the White House and Politico in January in which White House officials acknowledged Ducklo’s behavior was inappropriate but also accused Palmeri of “breaking an off-the-record agreement.” Ducklo eventually sent Palmeri an email saying he was “sorry he lost his cool,” but didn’t apologize for the threats or inappropriate language.
During his swearing-in on Jan. 20, Biden said: “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.” In Politico Playbook the following day, which Palmeri contributes to, the following question was asked: “Serious question on our minds this morning: Does this standard apply to how mid-level press aides treat reporters?”