TJ Ducklo, the White House Deputy Press Secretary, is dating Axios political reporter, Alexi McCammond, which while ethically dubious is not the worst scandal to come out of the White House press pool in recent history. However, when approached by other reporters about his relationship with McCammond, Ducklo reportedly responded with the kind of wrath that should be reserved for more pointed, dangerous questions, such as what is the Biden administration’s stance of Taylor Swift’s upcoming re-recorded albums? But instead of calmly responding or not responding at all, Ducklo took a more ferocious approach. According to Vanity Fair, when Ducklo was asked about his relationship by one of two Politico reporters on the story, he passed by the male reporter and went directly to the second reporter, Tara Palmeri, to try and get the story buried. “I will destroy you,” Ducklo reportedly told Palmeri.
This threat to ruin her reputation was followed by a barrage of insults leveled at Palmeri, who was simply doing a job that she had been assigned. Ducklo allegedly told Palmeri that she was jealous of his relationship and jealous of McCammond—specifically because a different unnamed man “wanted to fuck” McCammond and not Palmeri because, of course, women just want to be wanted by every breathing man they come across.
As is the nature of the journalism business, Palmeri’s editor asked how the call with Ducklo went and despite Ducklo’s comments being off the record, Palmeri shared what she’d been told. This, Vanity Fair reports, lead to a series of calls between White House officials, including Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and leadership at Politico. Palmeri was reportedly accused by White House officials of breaking the sacred nature of being off-the-record by sharing the inappropriate things Ducklo had said to her. However, Palmeri had only shared the information from the call to her editors, and it did not appear in Politico’s coverage of the Ducklo/McCammond relationship.
Psaki, in a series of tweets, addressed the Ducklo situation, stating he would be suspended for one week without pay and has apologized to Palmeri for the “heated conversation about his personal life.” Going forward, Ducklo will not be working with any reporters at Politico.