White House Aide Resigns After Threatening Reporter

WASHINGTON -
White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo listens to a press briefing at the White House in Washington, in Feb., 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

White House deputy press secretary T.J. Ducklo has resigned, the day after he was suspended for issuing a threat to a journalist seeking to cover a personal story.

Ducklo had been put on a weeklong suspension without pay on Friday after a report surfaced in Vanity Fair outlining his threats against a female Politico journalist to try to suppress the story, telling her “I will destroy you.” The journalist had been seeking to report on his relationship with a political reporter at Axios who had previously covered the Biden campaign and transition.

In a statement Saturday, Ducklo said he was “devastated to have embarrassed and disappointed my White House colleagues and President Biden.”

“No words can express my regret, my embarrassment and my disgust for my behavior,” he said. I used language that no woman should ever have to hear from anyone, especially in a situation where she was just trying to do her job. It was language that was abhorrent, disrespectful and unacceptable.”

It’s the first departure from the new administration, less than a month into President Joe Biden’s tenure, and it comes as the White House was facing criticism for not living up to standards set by Biden himself in their decision to retain Ducklo.

During a virtual swearing-in for staff on Inauguration Day, Biden said that “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,” Biden added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced a flurry of questions about the controversy Friday, with reporters highlighting Biden’s comments and questioning the decision to merely suspend Ducklo for a week.

Confronted with those comments from the president, Psaki said Friday that Ducklo’s conduct “doesn’t meet our standards, it doesn’t meet the president’s standard, and it was important that we took a step to make that clear.” She pointed to apologies made by top members of the White House communications team and Ducklo himself to the Politico reporter as ample moves reflecting the seriousness of the situation.

On Saturday, Psaki said in a statement that Ducklo’s decision came with the support of White House chief of staff Ron Klain, and added that “we are committed to striving every day to meet the standard set by the President in treating others with dignity and respect, with civility and with a value for others through our words and our actions.”

Reporting by AP