The White House has suspended a press aide over allegations he threatened a reporter who was working on a story about his romantic relationship with another journalist.
Vanity Fair alleged on Friday that White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo had made threats – including saying “I will destroy you” – to a Politico correspondent who was reporting on Ducklo’s recently disclosed relationship with an Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter that Ducklo had been suspended for a week without pay and will not work with Politico reporters again.
Psaki said Ducklo had apologised to the Politico reporter, Tara Palmeri, “with whom he had a heated conversation about his personal life … He is the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out by the president.”
Ducklo, McCammond and Palmeri did not respond to emails seeking comment. An Axios spokeswoman said McCammond disclosed the relationship to her editors in November and was reassigned from a beat covering the White House.
In a statement, Politico editor-in-chief Matt Kaminski and editor Carrie Budoff Brown acknowledged raising concerns with the White House about Ducklo’s behavior. “No journalist at Politico – or any other publication or network – should ever be subjected to such unfounded personal attacks while doing their job,” they said. “Politico reporters and editors are committed to forging a professional and transparent relationship with public office holders and their staff and expect the same in return.”
The week-long suspension appears to fall short of President Joe Biden’s promise to take a hard line on any incivility among members of his administration.
“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 … no ifs, ands or buts,” Biden told political appointees during a virtual swearing-in ceremony. “Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.”
Psaki told reporters during a briefing on Friday that Biden was not involved in the decision to suspend Ducklo and stressed that the White House took the matter seriously.
Ducklo’s behavior was “completely unacceptable. He knows that,” Psaki said. “We’ve had conversations with him. … This will never happen again.”
The solution caused anger among some Politico reporters, CNN reported, with one saying “it feels like she [Psaki] is punishing us more than him”, given Politico reporters will lose access to one of the highest-ranking officials in the White House communications department.