Biden Campaign’s Controversial Flack Becomes the Story Again

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

A messy scramble to clean up the fallout from President Joe Biden’s unintelligible debate performance has landed one of the president’s senior aides back in the spotlight—with his high-profile ex-girlfriend among those piling fresh scrutiny on the reportedly “toxic” flack.

Senior adviser TJ Ducklo, who previously made headlines for his aggressive efforts to intimate reporters, bewildered The New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd on Saturday when he asked her to rephrase an op-ed she wrote about a stumble Biden made in his high-stakes post-debate interview with veteran ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos asked Biden how he would feel if Trump won in November because the Democratic base refused to rally behind him, to which he said he would be OK with the outcome as long as he’d done the “goodest job” he knew he could do, using a non-word that drew scrutiny.

Dowd plucked the word from ABC’s official transcript, which was later updated to say that Biden had said he’d feel OK as long as he did “the good as job as I know I can do,” which was still gobbledygook.

Some of Biden’s speeches have been under increased scrutiny as members of his own party asked him to bow out of the presidential race due to questions about his age and his ability to defeat Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election.

Ducklo ultimately got his way when Dowd tweaked her original op-ed to align with ABC News’ finalized transcript, but she didn’t seem happy about it. In a follow-up piece, she wrote that journalists are going to be “appropriately resistant to making corrections” based on what the White House asserts Biden said or intended to say, adding that “it’s not our job to play Mad Libs with the president.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo holds a paper sheet with names and headshots of reporters during a press briefing at the White House.

White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo holds a paper sheet with names and headshots of reporters during a press briefing at the White House.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

The contentious episode was yet another sign of the increasingly frosty relationship between reporters and Biden’s press team.

Prior to taking his campaign job, Ducklo served as the White House deputy press secretary before resigning after reportedly sending threats and using derogatory language during an off-the-record call with Politico’s Tara Palmeri. Palmeri had been investigating a potential conflict of interest between Ducklo and then-Axios reporter Alexi McCammond, who had been reporting on Biden’s campaign.

Ducklo told Palmeri that he would “destroy” her reputation if she published the story, and accused her of being “jealous” that another unidentified man had “wanted to fuck” McCammond “and not you.”

McCammond, now an opinion editor at The Washington Post, and Ducklo have since broken up, and there is no love lost between the pair. She jumped into the conversation this weekend, posting on TikTok that she was glad to not be in her “toxic” ex’s shoes, playing “clean up after that disastrous debate.”

The campaign has, meanwhile, parted ways with another positive coverage tactic—giving reporters a list of pre-approved questions to ask the president. The campaign announced last week that they would no longer offer journalists friendly fire questions that the president is already prepared to answer, lessening the chances of an off-the-cuff response or gaffe.

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