President Joe Biden has promised to restore decency to the White House, specifically vowing to fire staffers who treat others with disrespect.
One top White House official appears to have forced Biden to break that promise, though, according to reports alleging that he threatened a Politico reporter during an exchange last month.
“I will destroy you”
The backlash against TJ Ducklo, the deputy White House press secretary, stems from an encounter with Tara Palmeri, who had been reporting on his relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond.
When the Politico reporter reached out to McCammond for comment and one of Palmeri’s male colleagues similarly contacted Ducklo, the Biden aide allegedly launched a series of verbal attacks against Palmeri that have since been characterized by “misogynistic” and “derogatory” in a report from Vanity Fair.
“I will destroy you,” Ducklo reportedly told Palmeri, who allegedly went on to use profane language in asserting that the female reporter was upset that a man was dating McCammond instead of her.
As Vanity Fair noted, Palmeri had no prior relationship with the Axios reporter and had been assigned the story to research and write.
The Biden White House soon caught wind of the incident, determining that Ducklo would be suspended one week without pay and that he would not be assigned to work with any other Politico reporters going forward.
“No ifs, ands, or buts”
Of course, critics pointed out that the reprimand appears to have fallen far short of a vow Biden made just one day after he was inaugurated last month.
“I am not joking when I say this…if you ever work 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,” the president said at the time, according to reports. “No ifs, ands, or buts.”
Beyond the criticism of Ducklo’s comments and the relatively light consequences he paid for them, it remains unclear why he was even upset about Palmeri’s reporting in the first place.
After all, People published its own article on the matter earlier this week, which indicated that both Ducklo and McCammond reported their relationship to their respective bosses in November and the situation was not a secret.
According to that article, McCammond had been reassigned from covering the president to a beat involving other progressives in D.C. to avoid a potential conflict. Everyone involved in the arrangement was reportedly satisfied, which leaves an unanswered question regarding Ducklo’s alleged temper tantrum against a reporter merely attempting to do her job.