WASHINGTON – White House deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo has been suspended for a week without pay after he reportedly issued a sexist and profane threat to a journalist seeking to cover his relationship with another reporter.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Ducklo's conduct was “completely unacceptable.” Psaki said while she had not spoken about the incident with President Joe Biden, Ducklo and aides “at the highest levels” of the White House’s communications team had apologized for the incident.
“No one wants anyone to feel uncomfortable, to be put in an uncomfortable position,” Psaki said.
Psaki said in a statement earlier Friday that Ducklo had been suspended without pay with the approval of White House chief of staff Ron Klain. She said Ducklo “is the first to acknowledge this is not the standard of behavior set out” by Biden, and that Ducklo had sent the reporter in question “a personal note professing his profound regret.”
Ducklo’s personal life came under scrutiny earlier this week when Politico reported on his relationship with a reporter for the news outlet Axios who was assigned to cover the Biden campaign and its transition. Before Politico broke the story Tuesday, People Magazine published a glowing profile of the relationship. It was the first time either one had publicly acknowledged the relationship.
On Friday, Vanity Fair published a report citing two unnamed sources that Ducklo had threatened the Politico reporter to try to suppress the story, telling her “I will destroy you.”
Psaki, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and Anita Dunn, director of West Wing operations, were all reportedly involved in conversations with Politico editors about the incident. Psaki said that when Ducklo returns, he won't be assigned to work with any Politico reporters.
President Donald Trump's White House was known for an adversarial relationship with reporters, and both Trump himself and his lead spokespeople would frequently pick fights with and lob personal attacks at reporters from behind the podium. But the Biden White House sought to strike a more cordial and professional tone with the Washington press corps from the start, installing a cadre of seasoned Washington communicators led by Psaki.