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White House Press Aide Resigns Over Call to Reporter

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WASHINGTON – White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned Saturday after it was reported that he was using abusive and sexist language with a reporter who was working on an article about his romantic relationship with a journalist from another publication would have.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the resignation in a statement Saturday night, the day after he said Mr Ducklo would be suspended for a week without pay.

“We accepted TJ Ducklo’s resignation after speaking to him tonight,” said Ms. Psaki, noting that Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, approved the decision. “We strive every day to strive to meet the standard set by the President, to treat others with dignity and respect, with courtesy and with value to others through our words and actions.”

Ducklo, 32, had served as national press secretary during Biden’s presidential campaign, dealing frequently with reporters and serving as campaign spokesman. During the transition, Mr. Ducklo served as spokesman and was appointed deputy press officer.

His quick departure suggests that Mr. Biden was keen to avoid his communications office sinking into protracted controversy in the early days of his tenure. Several reporters asked Ms. Psaki on Friday how Mr. Ducklo could work effectively with reporters.

The resignation follows a report by Vanity Fair on Friday that reported an exchange he allegedly had with Tara Palmeri, a reporter from Politico, who contacted him about his relationship with Alexi McCammond, which was about the Biden Campaign for the online publication Axios reported.

According to the Vanity Fair report, which was later confirmed by the New York Times, Mr. Ducklo told Ms. Palmeri that if she published an article about the relationship, he would “destroy” her. He also reportedly told her that she was “jealous” of Ms. McCammond and was following the story. He used vulgar language, according to two people who knew the call.

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Updated

Apr. 14, 2021 at 12:05 am ET

Ms. Psaki said Friday that Mr. Ducklo spoke to Ms. Palmeri and apologized and later sent a message apologizing again. Ms Psaki also said White House officials had advised senior editors at Politico that Mr Ducklo’s behavior was unacceptable.

When Mr Ducklo returned to work, he said he would not be allowed to interact with Politico reporters.

“And that was, from our point of view, a – was an important step in getting the message across that we didn’t find it acceptable,” she said at the time. She also called the week-long suspension a “severe punishment”.

However, this position did not last longer than a day.

In a statement late Saturday, Mr. Ducklo acknowledged the circumstances surrounding his release and regretted that he had used language that was “disgusting, disrespectful and unacceptable”.

“This incident is not representative of who I am as a person,” he said, “and I will be determined to regain the trust of everyone whom I have disappointed because of my intolerable actions.”

In part, the rapid change reflected the red line that Mr Biden himself had laid down for his personal conduct in his administration.

On inauguration day, the president forwarded indictments to hundreds of his political officials as he swore them in, warning that he would fire anyone he heard was disrespectful.

“If you ever work with me and I hear that you are treating another colleague with disrespect, speak to someone, I promise I will fire you immediately,” said Mr. Biden. “No ifs and buts. Everyone has the right to be treated with decency and dignity. That has been very missing in the last four years. “

When asked Friday whether Mr Ducklo’s behavior met this standard, Ms. Psaki said, “It is not our standard – it is not the President’s standard.” But she refused to say at the time why he shouldn’t be released.

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Robert Dunfee