Joe Biden’s deputy press secretary resigns over ‘abhorrent’ language

TJ Ducklo ‘embarrassed and disgusted’ after allegedly threatening a female journalist

TJ Ducklo resigned as Joe Biden’s deputy press secretary and became the first member of staff to depart the new administration. File photograph: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

TJ Ducklo resigned as Joe Biden’s deputy press secretary and became the first member of staff to depart the new administration. File photograph: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

 

Deputy White House press secretary TJ Ducklo has resigned, following reports of derogatory comments he made to a reporter, marking the first resignation of the Biden administration.

In a statement, press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House had accepted Mr Ducklo’s resignation after a discussion on Saturday.

“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,” she said.

Vanity Fair on Friday reported details of a phone call between Mr Ducklo and Tara Palmeri, a respected journalist for Politico. Mr Ducklo warned Ms Palmeri he would “destroy” her, and used sexually offensive language, after she enquired about Mr Ducklo’s relationship with a reporter from Axios.

Politico had originally informed the White House of plans to report the story of the relationship, which has raised ethical issues for Axios, on Monday. Then a flattering story about the romance between Mr Ducklo (32) and the Axios reporter, Alexi McCammond (27), appeared in People magazine that day.

Following the publication of the Vanity Fair report detailing the contents of Mr Ducklo’s call with Ms Palmeri, Ms Psaki announced that Mr Ducklo was being suspended without pay for one week. During Friday’s White House press briefing, she said that a week-long suspension was “an important step to send the message that we don’t find it acceptable.”

But controversy around the issue persisted over the weekend. Mr Biden warned staff members on inauguration day that he would fire them “on the spot” if they spoke down to or disrespected a colleague.

Mr Ducklo, who has recently battled stage four lung cancer, said in a statement: “No words can express my regret, my embarrassment and my disgust for my behaviour.”

He continued: “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.”

“I am devastated to have embarrassed and disappointed my White House colleagues and President Biden, and after a discussion with White House communications leadership tonight, I resigned my position.”