12 February 2021

I Don't Care that He Has Cancer, Just Fire Him

Biden Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo crossed some very bright red lines in his objection to reporting on his personal relationship with Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond.

The bullying and misogyny shown against Politico reporter Tara Palmeri* is completely beyond the pale.

Threatening to "destroy" her and saying that she was acting out of jealousy because of some man that Palmeri, "Wanted to F%$#" is grounds for firing, particularly for someone whose title has the words "Press Secretary" in it.

Also, quite frankly, even with his stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis, the Biden administration cannot let this slide:

A White House official tried to quash a story about his relationship with a reporter by issuing threats and using derogatory language to another reporter pursuing it, according to two sources familiar with the incident. In a sympathetic profile Monday, People revealed that White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo is dating Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond, who covered the Joe Biden campaign. But behind the scenes, Ducklo had previously lashed out at Politico reporter Tara Palmeri, who was reporting the story, exhibiting behavior that led to tense meetings between the Washington news outlet’s editors and senior White House officials.

After Vanity Fair published this account, the White House announced that Ducklo would be suspended for one week.

The confrontation began on Inauguration Day, January 20, after Palmeri, a coauthor of Politico’s Playbook, contacted McCammond for comment while one of her male colleagues left a message for Ducklo, according to the sources. Ducklo subsequently called a Playbook editor to object to the story, but was told to call the Playbook reporters with his concerns. But instead of calling the male reporter who initially contacted him, Ducklo tried to intimidate Palmeri by phone in an effort to kill the story. “I will destroy you,” Ducklo told her, according to the sources, adding that he would ruin her reputation if she published it.

During the off-the-record call, Ducklo made derogatory and misogynistic comments, accusing Palmeri of only reporting on his relationship—which, due to the ethics questions that factor into the relationship between a journalist and White House official, falls under the purview of her reporting beat—because she was “jealous” that an unidentified man in the past had “wanted to fuck” McCammond “and not you.” Ducklo also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond. (Palmeri had no prior relationship or communication with McCammond before calling her to report on the Playbook item, which was a story that she was assigned and had not independently pursued.)


Palmeri declined to comment. Psaki and Ducklo did not immediately respond to requests for comment. After publication, Psaki issued a statement: “TJ Ducklo has apologized to the reporter, 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. In addition to his initial apology, he has sent the reporter a personal note expressing his profound regret. With the approval of the White House Chief of Staff, he has been placed on a one-week suspension without pay. In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.”


Ducklo’s alleged response to Politico’s reporting raises serious questions about behavior that is tolerated in the Biden White House. “I am not joking when I say this: If you are 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 said during a virtual swearing-in of appointees on his first day in the White House. Playbook highlighted those remarks on January 21 under the heading “Biden Sets Standard for Professional Behavior,” and asked, “Serious question on our minds this morning: Does this standard apply to how mid-level press aides treat reporters?”

What to do here is very simple.  You fire him.

I understand that you want to do right by him, he has been a good soldier, and he has stage 4 lung cancer that has metastasized, but as a matter of integrity, this is a promise that Biden should keep.

As a matter of tactics, he is toxic for the next few years anyway.

If you want to thread the needle, and he is getting cancer treatment, promise to keep covering his insurance.

As an aside, with Medicare for All, this would not be a problem.

*I never thought that I would have to defend a reporter from Tiger Beat on the Potomac. (TBOTP)


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