T.J. Ducklo, the White House deputy press secretary who threatened to “destroy” a female journalist seeking comment for a story about his ethically problematic relationship with an Axios reporter, will keep his job despite President Joe Biden’s warning that staff members who treat others with “disrespect” would be fired “on the spot.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Ducklo will receive a one-week suspension without pay after his “heated conversation” with Politico reporter Tara Palmeri, which occurred on Jan. 20, was made public for the first time in a Vanity Fair article published Friday.
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Ducklo reportedly made derogatory and misogynistic comments toward Palmeri after she reached out to his girlfriend, Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, for comment on a story about the couple’s relationship. Ducklo did not, for whatever reason, lash out at Palmeri’s male colleague who had reached out to him for comment.
According to Vanity Fair, the conversation went off the rails when Ducklo accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond, and threatened to ruin her reputation if she published the story. “I will destroy you,” he said. Politico published the story on Tuesday, a day after People magazine ran a sympathetic profile of the D.C. power couple.
Ducklo’s misogynistic outburst is even more problematic considering his history of employment. His role as Biden’s deputy press secretary is not the first time Ducklo has flacked for someone accused of sexual assault.
For example, Ducklo was the senior communications director for NBC News between 2018 and 2019, when the network was struggling to contain the fallout from the numerous sexual assault allegations leveled against disgraced daytime host Matt Lauer. Journalist Ronan Farrow has accused senior NBC News executives of turning a blind eye to Lauer’s predatory behavior and of actively thwarting his efforts to report on disgraced Democratic donor Harvey Weinstein’s history of misconduct.
Ducklo may or may not have interacted with Weinstein when he did communications for the Motion Picture Association of America from 2011 to 2014. He definitely hung out with the group’s chairman, former senator Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), who is best known for making a “waitress sandwich” with the late Ted Kennedy, among other forms of disreputable behavior toward women.
Dodd, who served on Biden’s vice presidential selection committee in 2020, was exceedingly reluctant to weigh in on the (in some cases criminal) allegations against Weinstein, whom he called a “friend” who was “very helpful to me as a candidate for Congress and as a senator over the years.” Anita Dunn, one of Ducklo’s colleagues in the Biden White House, went so far as to provide Weinstein with “damage control advice” as the disgraced producer sought to avoid being convicted on rape charges.
Ducklo also worked as communications director for Bloomberg Politics, an organization whose founder, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, has faced numerous lawsuits from women alleging discrimination and sexual harassment. He went on to do public relations work for The Circus, the Showtime political reality series starring Mark Halperin, the former MSNBC (and Bloomberg) journalist who was ousted from public life amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior.
If Ducklo is looking for some contracting work to keep him busy during his week off, the Lincoln Project could use all the help it can get.
Andrew Stiles is senior writer at the Washington Free Beacon. He can be reached at [email protected]
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