This past week, the administration of Joe Biden was struck by one of its first big tussles with the press, and it should remind us of the role the press plays.
White House deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo, who is dating an Axios political reporter, threatened to “destroy” a Politico reporter writing on the relationship. Ducklo told the reporter, Tara Palmeri, that he would ruin her reputation, according to Vanity Fair.
The condemnation was swift, and Ducklo was suspended for a week without pay for his actions. Only one day later, Ducklo resigned.
“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
In his own statement, Ducklo said he was embarrassed by his behavior and regretted the language he used.
President Biden promised on his first day in office to not tolerate disrespect from staffers. But Ducklo’s behavior should serve as a reminder that Washington is Washington — and the press still has the responsibility of covering Biden critically, as it did Trump.
That’s not to say that the press is biased towards Biden or Democrats. The press is biased towards facts and truth, which at many points over the last five years seemed to put it squarely on the left — but that is merely in appearances, not actuality.
However, every president has a honeymoon period. Whether in public polling or in the media, most White Houses seem to be firing on all cylinders in the first days in office. At the very least, administrations have not had enough time to renege on promises.
Biden is especially helped by this period of time. With impeachment enveloping the first weeks of the Biden presidency, his administration largely avoided the watchful eye of the press. All attention was on the Senate.
But Ducklo’s comments to a reporter are a stark reminder of what Washington is and what the press must do. It is there to cover the administration critically and fairly, informing the public on their president and the job he is doing.
While Ducklo resigned and some may think the conflict between the press corp and White House is over, this incident needs to snap the media out of their honeymoon period. The Biden administration should be watched with a careful eye, not because it is more likely to make mistakes but because the American people deserve as much.