President Joe Biden’s latest hire is no stranger to the White House, as he was ousted two years ago for allegedly threatening and bothering a reporter.
The former White House deputy press secretary, T.J. Ducklo, resigned in February 2021 after allegedly telling then-Politico reporter Tara Palmeri in an off-the-record call that he would “destroy her” over a report into the potential conflict of interest in his relationship with Axios reporter Alexi McCammond.
Ducklo also allegedly tormented Palmeri with accusations of jealousy.
One of Palmeri’s editors reportedly informed the White House about Ducklo’s remarks, leading to conversations with senior-level officials like then-Press Secretary Jen Psaki and senior adviser Anita Dunn. According to Vanity Fair, White House officials criticized Palmeri for disclosing Ducklo’s remarks because it was an off-the-record conversation.
The situation occurred on Biden’s Inauguration, Jan. 20, 2021, when Biden promised while swearing in appointees that disrespectful behavior could lead to termination.
“If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot, on the spot. No if, ands, or buts. Everybody — everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity,” Biden said.
Despite Biden’s remarks, the White House only suspended Ducklo over the incident. Ducklo resigned a day after.
My statement on resigning from the White House. pic.twitter.com/3Jpiiv75vB
— TJ Ducklo (@TDucklo) February 14, 2021
Ducklo’s actions in the West Wing lasted for two months. Yet, he wasn’t left without a job for long. The New York-based public relations firm, Risa Heller Communications, hired Ducklo as their senior vice president.
Risa Heller, the firm’s founder, has taken on public discourse on major controversies for several high-profile clientele, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), former New York Gov. David Paterson (D), former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Harvey Weinstein, longtime CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and former CNN president Jeff Zucker.
After serving a year at Risa Heller Communications, Ducklo was hired as a chief communications officer and senior adviser to Nashville Mayor John Cooper. In December 2022, Ducklo’s outspokenness prompted controversy. In a since-deleted Tweet, Ducklo mocked Metro City Council members who were angry over a deal with the Tennessee Titans.
“Tough night for the loudest voices in the room,” Ducklo’s tweet read.
— Councilman Russ Bradford aka Mr. ✈️ (@Bradford4D13) December 22, 2022
Despite leaving the Biden administration, Ducklo has history with the Biden team. He served as national press secretary for Biden’s 2020 campaign, then as senior spokesman for the transition team.
Dunn recently defended Ducklo as a “valued friend in our community” in remarks to Politico in May 2023.