The White House Is Not Firing A Staffer Who Made Sexist Threats To A Reporter

Deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo reportedly told a journalist he would “destroy” her for reporting on a relationship he had with another reporter.

The White House has suspended deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo for a short period of time after his sexist threats to a reporter were made public on Friday, but is choosing not to take further steps.

“It’s completely unacceptable. He knows that. We’ve had conversations with him about that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Friday’s White House briefing. Asked by a reporter why the punishment was not more severe, Psaki called the decision to suspend Ducklo for one week without pay a “significant step.”

Ducklo told a Politico reporter he would “destroy” her when she and a colleague were reporting on Ducklo’s relationship with a reporter for Axios, Vanity Fair reported Friday. Ducklo reportedly went on to make a series of sexist comments to the reporter, calling her “jealous” because of an alleged past sexual relationship. During a series of follow-up conversations between senior White House press staff and Politico editors, the White House reportedly acknowledged Ducklo’s comments were not appropriate while still impugning the Politico reporter. Ducklo ultimately broadly apologized to the Politico reporter, Vanity Fair reported.

The White House announced Ducklo’s one-week suspension soon after the Vanity Fair story was published. Ducklo additionally will no longer work with Politico reporters. Psaki said the White House has “reached out at every level” at Politico to apologize and say that that kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

Asked on Friday why the White House did not act before the story was made public, Psaki said the White House had felt it “appropriate” to keep the situation private at the time.

Ducklo’s relationship with the Axios reporter was revealed in a flattering story in People earlier this week, before Politico reported on the relationship.

Ducklo worked with President Joe Biden throughout his campaign and has been a main point of contact with the White House for many reporters. During the campaign, in late 2019, Ducklo was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Biden himself has tried to set a tone for his staff that is in full conflict with Ducklo’s actions. “I’m not joking when I say this,” Biden told new administration appointees on their first day in January. “If you are ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, [or] talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot.”

Asked about those comments from Biden, Psaki said Friday that what Ducklo did “doesn’t meet our standard, it doesn’t meet the president’s standard.” Psaki said Biden was not involved in the decision to suspend Ducklo.

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