It’s the first departure from the new administration, less than a month into President Joe Biden’s tenure, and it comes as the White House was facing criticism for not living up to standards set by Biden himself in their decision to retain Ducklo.
During a virtual swearing-in for staff on Inauguration Day, Biden said that “if you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I will fire you on the spot.”
“No ifs, ands or buts,” Biden added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced a flurry of questions about the controversy Friday, with reporters highlighting Biden’s comments and questioning the decision to merely suspend Ducklo for a week.
Confronted with those comments from the president, Psaki said Friday that Ducklo’s conduct “doesn’t meet our standards, it doesn’t meet the president’s standard, and it was important that we took a step to make that clear.” She pointed to apologies made by top members of the White House communications team and Ducklo himself to the Politico reporter as ample moves reflecting the seriousness of the situation.
On Saturday, Psaki said in a statement that Ducklo’s decision came with the support of White House chief of staff Ron Klain, and added that “we are committed to striving every day to meet the standard set by the President in treating others with dignity and respect, with civility and with a value for others through our words and our actions.”
Ducklo’s personal life came under scrutiny earlier this week when Politico reported on his relationship with a reporter for the news outlet Axios who was assigned to cover the Biden campaign and its transition. Before Politico broke the story Tuesday, People magazine published a glowing profile of the relationship. It was the first time either one had publicly acknowledged the relationship.
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."
President Donald Trump’s White House was known for an adversarial relationship with reporters, and both Trump himself and his lead spokespeople would frequently pick fights with and lob personal attacks at reporters from behind the podium. But the Biden White House sought to strike a more cordial and professional tone with the Washington press corps from the start, installing a cadre of seasoned Washington communicators led by Psaki.