TJ Ducklo: Was Biden's aide suspended only for a week due to ongoing cancer treatment? Internet wants him fired
The White House has suspended deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo for one week for threatening Politico's Tara Palmeri over a story about him being in a relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond with the words "I will destroy you", accompanied with misogynistic comments about her being jealous of McCammond.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on February 12 that her deputy Ducklo's one-week suspension was because it "was an important step to send the message that we don't find this acceptable". In tweets from the official White House Twitter account, she added that Ducklo would "no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico" and that he has acknowledged that "this is not the standard of behavior set out by the President".
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.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 12, 2021
With the approval of the White House Chief of Staff, he has been placed on a one-week suspension without pay. In addition, when he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with any reporters at Politico.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) February 12, 2021
However, many Twitter users, including political commentators, tweeted about the one-week suspension saying that Ducklo should have been fired according to the standards set by the Biden administration. They were referring to President Joe Biden's teaching moment on the second day in office on January 21 when he had said he would fire anyone on the spot if he heard anyone treating another colleague with disrespect or talking down to someone.
At the time, there were many laudatory articles on how the Biden administration was starkly different from the previous Trump administration in terms of its moral and behavioral codes where misogyny, sexism, racism, and other forms of bad behavior were concerned. There was also the hope that the abuse of privilege was a thing of the past and would no longer be tolerated. However, the mild censure of White House's Deputy Press Secretary, Ducklo, showed that the Biden administration might be all words and no action on what is deemed acceptable behavior for those representing the President and the White House.
Directly remarking on Psaki's tweets about Ducklo, one user said: "What happened to Biden's statement of Jan. 21? 'I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts'". CNN reporter Jack Tapper had a similar comparison to make in his tweet about how the administration's zero-tolerance policy seemed to be compromised.
What happened to Biden's statement of Jan. 21 ? "I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another with disrespect, talking down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts,”— Elise (@ElisevanderWiel) February 12, 2021
President Biden on Jan 20:— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 12, 2021
“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.”
President Biden on Feb 12: https://t.co/Zy0V3nHDdo
Another series of tweets speculated if Ducklo's slap on the wrist rather than a firing was because he had cancer. "It may be that b/c he has stage 4 lung cancer, they don't want to throw him off of his medical coverage. With Trump, the cruelty was always the purpose, but it's not a good way to live or to lead, right?", said one user. Another tweet called for empathy, saying: "The guy has stage four cancer, so I’m imagining they are trying to make sure he can maintain his insurance? As someone battling cancer, I understand the fear/paranoia of losing insurance or having a pause in treatment", to which another user replied, "Had no problem dropping someone who just had a baby and was on parental leave." He was referring to the Biden team firing former Trump officials who were on maternity or parental leave after Biden's team took over at the White House.
It may be that b/c he has stage 4 lung cancer, they don't want to throw him off of his medical coverage. With Trump, the cruelty was always the purpose, but it's not a good way to live or to lead, right?— Nikki Barnabee (@GargoylePhan) February 12, 2021
The guy has stage four cancer, so I’m imagining they are trying to make sure he can maintain his insurance? As someone battling cancer, I understand the fear/paranoia of losing insurance or having a pause in treatment.— Bad Mamajama (@Realitynotcons1) February 12, 2021
Had no problem dropping someone who just had a baby and was on parental leave— mtmichaelson (@mtmichaelson) February 12, 2021
Who is TJ Ducklo?
"TJ Ducklo" aka Tyler Joseph Ducklo, is a political advisor who had worked as the national press secretary for the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign. He is currently the White House deputy press secretary for the Biden Administration. A graduate of political communication from George Washington University, Ducklo has also held senior media relations posts at Bloomberg News, Viacom, and the Motion Picture Association of America and worked as a public relations advisor for Showtime's 2016 documentary 'The Circus'.
On February 8, People had broken the news of Ducklo dating Axios' Alexi McCammond. "We're both really happy, and we wanted to do it the right way," Ducklo said in the sympathetic profile in the magazine, which also spoke of Ducklo's cancer diagnosis in December 2019. McCammond, 27, besides being a reporter for the political website Axios in also an NBC/MSNBC contributor. She had covered Joe Biden's presidential campaign in 2019 and 2020 and got to know Ducklo, then Biden's press secretary, and began dating him in November last year.
However, the People profile was an effort to squash the story being done by Politico's Tara Palmeri about his relationship with McCammond that would focus on the ethics of the relationship between a journalist and a White House official. Ducklo had tried to intimidate Palmeri into dropping the story saying he would "destroy" her if she went ahead with the story. He also accused her of being “jealous” that an unidentified man in the past had “wanted to f*ck” McCammond “and not you”.
When Politico had reached out to the White House about Ducklo’s threats, there were multiple conversations between the news outlet and senior-level officials on January 21, including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, and Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn.
While the senior White House officials said Ducklo’s handling of the call with Palmeri was inappropriate and said he would send a note to her apologizing for the comments, they also accused Palmeri of breaking an off-the-record agreement with Ducklo. They were reportedly putting pressing on Politico as to why the contents of the Ducklo's threatening call had been revealed even though Palmeri had only spoken to her superiors who had assigned her the story.
This is ironic because McCammond had broken a similar off-the-record agreement when she tweeted about her interaction with Charles Barkley, the former NBA player who works as a basketball analyst, in which he had joked about hitting her. She has also been in news for her racist tweets against Asians in 2011.