In one of his first acts as president, Joe Biden issued a stern warning to his appointees that he will fire them “on the spot” if he hears them disrespecting a colleague.
But that apparently doesn’t apply to journalists, judging from the administration’s reaction to a deputy White House press secretary reportedly harassing and threatening a political reporter.
In a virtual address to about 1,000 political appointees during a swearing-in ceremony on his first full day in office, Biden on January 21 said: “I’m 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 will fire you on the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts.”
“Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years,” Biden said in a bash of former President Donald Trump. “We’re going to be judged whether or not we restored the integrity and competency in this government. I need your help badly.”
Biden reminded his incoming staff that he has hired them to help “restore the soul of this country.”
“You’re engaged in and you’re working with the most decent government in the world. And we have to restore the soul of this country,” he said. “And I’m counting on all of you to be a part of that — it’s not hyperbole.”
“You work for the people,” he continued. “You’re going to work like the devil. We all [will]. We will all work long hours. … ‘The only thing I expect with absolute certainty is honesty and decency, the way you treat one another, the way you treat the people you deal with.”
But Biden didn’t fire TJ Ducklo “on the spot.” Instead, he was suspended for a week.
Vanity Fair on Friday reported that the deputy White House press secretary harassed and threatened a Politico journalist. “I will destroy you,” Ducklo reportedly told Tara Palmeri when she was reporting on his relationship with Alexi McCammond, a reporter at Axios, another political website in Washington, D.C.
Said the magazine:
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….
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.
But the White House took minor action. “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,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement after the Vanity Fair report was published.
“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,” she added. “In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.”
Not exactly fired “on the spot.”