WASHINGTON – TJ Ducklo, deputy White House press secretary, resigned on Saturday after learning he used abusive and sexist language with a reporter working on an article about his romantic relationship with a reporter at another publication.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, announced the resignation in a statement on Saturday evening, a day after saying Mr. Ducklo would be suspended without pay for a week.
“We have accepted TJ Ducklo’s resignation after a discussion with him this evening,” Psaki said, noting that Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, agreed with the decision. “We are committed to striving each day to meet the standard set by the President by treating others with dignity and respect, with courtesy and with value to others through our words and actions.
Mr Ducklo, 32, had been a national press secretary during Mr Biden’s presidential campaign, frequently engaging with reporters and acting as a campaign spokesperson. During the transition, Mr. Ducklo served as spokesperson and was appointed deputy press secretary.
His swift departure suggests that Mr Biden was keen to prevent his communications office from getting bogged down in long controversy in the early days of his administration. On Friday, several women journalists asked Ms Psaki how Mr Ducklo could work effectively with journalists.
The resignation follows a report released on Friday by Vanity Fair which recounted an exchange he allegedly had with Tara Palmeri, a Politico reporter who contacted him about his relationship with Alexi McCammond, who was covering the Biden campaign for the Axios online publication.
According to the Vanity Fair account, later confirmed by the New York Times, Mr. Ducklo told Ms. Palmeri that he would “destroy” her if she published an article about the relationship. He also allegedly told her that she was “jealous” of Mrs. McCammond and was pursuing the story because of it. He used vulgar language, according to two people familiar with the phone call.
Ms Psaki said on Friday that Mr Ducklo spoke with Ms Palmeri and apologized and subsequently sent a note to apologize again. Ms Psaki also said White House officials told Politico editors that Mr Ducklo’s behavior was not acceptable.
When Mr. Ducklo returned to work, she said, he would not be allowed to interact with Politico reporters.
“And that, in our opinion, was a – was an important step in sending the message that we don’t find this acceptable,” she said at the time. She also called the one-week suspension a “severe punishment”.
But this position was not viable for more than a day.
In a press release at the end of SaturdayMr. Ducklo admitted the circumstances surrounding his dismissal and regretted having used “odious, disrespectful and unacceptable” language.
“This incident is not representative of who I am as a person,” he said, “and I will be determined to regain the trust of all those I have let down because of my intolerable actions. “
In part, the rapid change reflected the red line that Mr. Biden himself had drawn for the personal conduct of his administration.
On the day of the inauguration, the president lodged a complaint against hundreds of his elected politicians when he swore them in, warning that he would fire anyone he heard disrespecting.
“If you ever work with me and I hear you treating another colleague with disrespect, talking to someone, I promise I will fire you on the spot,” Biden said. “No ifs, ands, or buts. Everyone has the right to be treated with decency and dignity. This has been greatly missed over the past four years.
Asked on Friday whether Mr Ducklo’s behavior met that standard, Ms Psaki said “it doesn’t meet our standard – it doesn’t meet the president’s standard.” But she declined to say at the time why he shouldn’t be fired.