On Day 1 of his presidency, Joe Biden laid down the law to members of his staff on the kind of professionalism he expected of them in their internal dealings with one another. “I am not joking when I say this,” he admonished. “If you are 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. No ifs, ands, or buts.”
That sounds pretty final.
But the same day he handed down the edict, it was put to the test. According to Vanity Fair, Biden’s Deputy Press Secretary, TJ Ducklo, lashed out at journalist Tara Palmeri for publishing a story about his romantic relationship with Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond, threatening to “destroy” Palmeri if she didn’t retract it:
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The confrontation began on Inauguration Day, January 20, after Palmeri, a coauthor of Politico’s Playbook, contacted McCammond for comment while one of her male colleagues left a message for Ducklo, according to the sources. Ducklo subsequently called a Playbook editor to object to the story, but was told to call the Playbook reporters with his concerns. 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.
During the off-the-record call, Ducklo made derogatory and misogynistic comments, accusing Palmeri of only reporting on his relationship — which, due to the ethics questions that factor into the relationship between a journalist and White House official, falls under the purview of her reporting beat — because she was “jealous” that an unidentified man in the past had “wanted to fuck” McCammond “and not you.” Ducklo also accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond.
So what words did Biden use to frame his termination of Ducklo? Did he take a page out of Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” days playbook and tell him “You’re fired”? Or did he take Ducklo out behind the White House and “beat the hell out of him,” as he had threatened on multiple occasions to do to Trump?
Try none of the above. Ducklo’s punishment was suspension for one week without pay.
Never mind the lack of character Ducklo’s behavior evinces. What about Biden’s own sense of morality and capacity for being as good as his word?