Earlier this week, it was revealed that top White House aide T.J. Ducklo was dating Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, which in itself created an ethics conflict that was swiftly covered up by the Biden administration.
However, when Politico reporter Tara Palmeri asked Ducklo — who is the current deputy White House press secretary — about the status of that relationship, he reportedly responded with “derogatory and misogynistic” comments. The White House subsequently announced that Ducklo would be suspended for one week without pay — a move that many are criticizing as a mere “slap on the wrist.”
Ducklo reportedly threatened to “destroy” Palmeri in an off-the-record call on January 20 in an angry tirade that included unsavory, sexist remarks after she asked about the questionably ethical relationship.
Ducklo reportedly apologized to Palmeri and the White House attempted to shuffle the issue away. However, in confirming that Ducklo only received a short suspension and would no longer be permitted to work with Politico reporters despite his inappropriate outburst, a new controversy arose.
Joe Biden explicitly promised at the outset of his presidency that any staff members who displayed disrespect of their colleagues would be immediately fired. In mid-January, Biden announced that staffers and appointees would be dismissed with “no ifs, ands, or buts,” if they treated any of their colleagues with disrespect.
CApparently, reporters don’t count.
Journalists of all stripes erupted in criticism of the move, pointing out the “repellent” language Ducklo used against their fellow reporter. The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona noted that the suspension announcement directly contradicts Biden’s promise from just weeks ago.
This is, of course, not what Biden promised just three weeks ago.
He said specifically at that time he would fire “on the spot” anyone who treats “another colleague with disrespect” or talks “down to someone — no ifs, and or buts.” https://t.co/GBSoeMg9Io
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 12, 2021
Buzzfeed’s Josh Billinson snarked: “Well it’s a good thing his boss did not boldly declare three weeks ago that anyone in the administration who disrespects or talks down to others would be fired on the spot.”
Commentator Steve Krakaur pointed out: “So Ducklo is banned from working with any reporters at Politico, because of his misogynistic insults aimed at a Politico reporter, but he can still work with reporters at Axios, where his girlfriend is employed as a reporter covering the VP.”
After McCammond disclosed her relationship with Ducklo to Axios in November and was reassigned to covering Vice President Kamala Harris — though she still frequently covers the Biden administration as a whole.