White House press aide resigns over call to reporter

According to the account in Vanity Fair, which was later confirmed by The New York Times, Ducklo told the reporter that he would “destroy” her if she published an article on a relationship.

In this Feb. 9, 2021 photo, White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo listens as press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — T.J. Ducklo, a deputy White House press secretary, resigned Saturday after reports that he used abusive and sexist language with a female reporter working on an article about his romantic relationship with a journalist from another publication.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, announced the resignation in a statement Saturday evening, a day after saying Ducklo would be suspended without pay for a week.

“We accepted the resignation of T.J. Ducklo after a discussion with him this evening,” Psaki said, noting that Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, agreed with the decision. “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.”


Ducklo, 32, had served as national press secretary during Biden’s presidential campaign, engaging frequently with reporters and acting as a spokesperson for the campaign. During the transition, Ducklo served as a spokesperson and was named as a deputy press secretary.

His quick departure suggests that Biden was eager to avoid having his communications office bogged down in a drawn-out controversy in the early days of his administration. Several female reporters had asked Psaki on Friday how Ducklo could effectively work with reporters.

The resignation follows a report Friday by Vanity Fair that recounted a purported exchange he had with Tara Palmeri, a reporter for Politico who had contacted him about his relationship with Alexi McCammond, who covered the Biden campaign for the online publication Axios.

According to the account in Vanity Fair, which was later confirmed by The New York Times, Ducklo told Palmeri that he would “destroy” her if she published an article on the relationship. He also reportedly told her that she was “jealous” of McCammond and was pursuing the story because of that. He used vulgar language, according to two people with knowledge of the phone call.

Psaki said Friday that Ducklo had spoken to Palmeri and apologized and later sent a note apologizing again. Psaki also said White House officials had told senior editors at Politico that Ducklo’s behavior was not acceptable.


When Ducklo returned to work, she said, he would not be allowed to interact with Politico reporters.

“And that, in our view, was a — was an important step to send the message that we don’t find it acceptable,” she said at the time. She also called the one-week suspension a “serious punishment.”

But that position was not sustainable longer than a day.

In part, the swift change reflected the red line that Biden himself set for personal conduct in his administration.

On Inauguration Day, the president delivered a charge to hundreds of his political appointees when he swore them in, warning that he would fire anyone he heard being disrespectful.

“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,” Biden said. “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.”

Asked Friday about whether Ducklo’s behavior met that standard, Psaki said that “it doesn’t meet our standard — it doesn’t meet the president’s standard.” But she declined to say at the time why he should not be dismissed.


Get Boston.com's browser alerts:

Enable breaking news notifications straight to your internet browser.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com