If you’re prone to reading fluff pieces in People magazine – and, let’s face it, you’re probably not – an article published on February 8th might have left you with the impression that White House staffer TJ Ducklo was the romantic lead in real life fairy tale. Brave Democrat operative fighting lung cancer meets rising-star political reporter, they fall in love and go on to live out their Instagram-worthy love story with Washington, D.C., as the Hallmark-esque background.
Yes, yes, there were some pesky ethics questions about the appropriateness of a reporter on the Biden campaign beat being in a relationship with Biden’s press secretary, but, by golly, love conquers all.
You’ve got to admire the moxie of the Biden administration planting this story with the willing dupes at People, knowing full well what was coming: an explosive story in Vanity Fair detailing TJ Ducklo’s ugly side. As it turns out, Ducklo is angry, vile and misogynistic – so much so that even Vanity Fair, prone to writing their own fluff pieces, couldn’t ignore it. It seems Politico reporter Tara Palmeri and a male colleague decided to contact Ducklo and his girlfriend for a comment on the People article. Here’s what happened next:
“But instead of calling the male reporter who initially contacted him, Ducklo tried to intimidate Palmeri by phone in an effort to kill the story. “I will destroy you,” Ducklo told her, according to the sources, adding that he would ruin her reputation if she published it.”
The rest of his rant cannot be printed here, but let’s just say TJ Ducklo is no romantic hero.
The ball was now in Joe Biden’s court. After all, Biden had promised his staff on Inauguration Day: “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.” It was a chance for Biden to show the courage of his convictions, but, despicably, he instead gave Ducklo the mild punishment of one week off without pay. Oh, and he also had to apologize to Palmeri. Kind of.
This is what passes for a serious punishment in the Biden White House. Pressy Secretary Jen Psaki, for whom Ducklo works, could have lived up to her “boss girl” goals by sending her schoolyard bully underling packing. But, instead, she rather weakly stated that his unprofessional and threatening behavior didn’t “meet our standard, it doesn’t meet the president’s standard” for firing. There seems to be a lack of standards here altogether.
Biden and Psaki’s handling of TJ Ducklo was inept and foolish. He could have, and should have, been made an example of — especially in this post-#MeToo world where even liberal men are sometimes held accountable for their bad behavior. Shame on them for allowing anti-hero TJ Ducklo to remain in a privileged position.
Teri Christoph is editor of Fierce, a weekly newsletter about conservative women and politics.
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