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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki waffled Friday when grilled on TJ Ducklo’s one-week suspension for threatening a journalist — even though President Biden has vowed to fire his aides “on the spot” for harassment.
Psaki said the remarks from Ducklo — who threatened to “destroy” Politico reporter Tara Palmeri for reporting about his personal relationship — were “completely unacceptable” but refused to address why he wasn’t outright fired.
“We felt it was a serious punishment,” Psaki told reporters at a White House press briefing.
Biden’s zero-tolerance promise came as he swore in his appointees on Inauguration Day.
“I am not joking when I say this, 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,” he said at the time. “On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years.”
Ducklo was suspended without pay for a week over his tirade to Palmeri, to whom he’s also apologized. When he returns, he will no longer be assigned to work with Politico reporters.
Psaki dodged a question about Biden’s remarks on Jan. 20, saying Ducklo’s punishment fits the crime.
“It doesn’t meet our standard, it doesn’t meet the president’s standard,” she said. “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. That, in our view, was an important step to send the message that we don’t find it acceptable.”
Psaki also said that she did not discuss Ducklo’s conduct or punishment with Biden.
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