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Notes on a Washington Media Scandal

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
May 4, 2023

Washington is a city of second, third, and sometimes even fourth chances, where personal scandals rarely end a career. As Michael Schaffer once put it, “you’ll always eat lunch in this town again.” So it goes for T.J. Ducklo, the former White House aide who resigned in 2021 after a verbal altercation with me that was unprofessional and deeply personal. Ducklo, of course, is now heading back to Biden world in a communications job on the campaign. His return has been smoothed by effusive comments of support from female colleagues, in advance of the official announcement, lest anyone kick up dust about the whole thing. 

The truth about Ducklo, with whom I had never interacted before the incident on the night of Biden’s inauguration, is that he was a very aggressive defender of the president, which naturally rubbed some reporters the wrong way. Some thought he was demeaning, but nobody who approached me afterward said that he had ever crossed the line as he did with me. For what it’s worth, I never wanted Ducklo to be fired from the White House. I learned after our altercation that he was suffering with lung cancer during the campaign. But as with all things in Washington, it often comes down to how you manage the scandal rather than the scandal itself.