T.J. Ducklo, President Joe Biden's deputy press secretary, is accused of threatening Politico reporter Tara Palmeri for working on a story regarding his relationship with Axios journalist Alexi McCammond, according to a Friday report.
"But behind the scenes, Ducklo had previously lashed out at Politico reporter Tara Palmeri, who was reporting the story, exhibiting behavior that led to tense meetings between the Washington news outlet's editors and senior White House officials", Vanity Fair reported.
"TJ Ducklo has apologised to the reporter, with whom he had a heated conversation about his personal life".
On Friday, Vanity Fair published a report citing two unnamed sources that Ducklo had threatened the Politico reporter to try to suppress the story, telling her "I will destroy you".
White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo is on unpaid suspension amid reports he sent derogatory and misogynistic messages to reporters. Psaki said that when Ducklo returns, he won't be assigned to work with any Politico reporters.
Romantic relationships between reporters and people they cover are generally considered a conflict of interest in journalism, and this one raised questions about McCammond's political reporting.
"It was important that we took a step to make that clear and that included not just an apology directly from him and apologies directly from us at the highest levels there, but also a step to suspend him for one week without pay", Psaki continued.
Palmeri, meanwhile, had been assigned to cover the story as part of her job as a D.C. -based politics reporter and had never interacted with McCammond until she began work on the article.
The president has been accused of hypocrisy for not immediately sacking Ducklo, in line with a warning he issued at his inauguration on January 20, claiming he was drawing a line under his predecessor Donald Trump's frequent Twitter attacks on opponents and critics. "No ifs, ands, or buts", the president said during his first day in the White House.
Psaki also squirmed when grilled over why Ducklo was only suspended when the incident was made public - when Politico protested "immediately". But Palmeri pointed out that McCammond's beat includes covering Vice President Kamala Harris and that she had commented glowingly on Biden after he was inaugurated.
Psaki also stated that the president was not involved in the decision, which was made by her with the permission of White House chief of staff Ron Klain. Please take a minute to sign up to our mailing list so we can stay in touch with you, our community.
"No words can express my regret, my embarrassment, and my disgust for my behavior", wrote Ducklo, admitting to having 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". So, those were the steps that were taken, and we felt it was a serious punishment.