Risa Heller Communications hired TJ Ducklo, the Nashville native who resigned as the Biden administration’s deputy press secretary shortly after his suspension for threatening and insulting a reporter. The reporter in question, Tara Palmeri, had inquired with another political reporter, Alexi McCammond, about the potential conflict of interest presented in her new relationship to Ducklo. In response, Ducklo made an off-the-record call to threaten and harass Palmeri. Palmeri shared Ducklo’s comments with his superiors. In one response to Palmeri’s concerns, senior Biden officials took Palmeri to task for breaking a reported off-the-record agreement with Ducklo. The scandal occurred shortly after President Joe Biden promised in his inaugural address to employees that disrespecting colleagues would be a fireable offense.

The PR firm’s founder and primary operator, Risa Heller, was formerly the communications director for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and former Democratic governor of New York, David Paterson. Heller also offered crisis communications assistance to former Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY-09) amidst his sex scandal in 2011; Ivanka Trump as she navigated conflict ahead of her appointment as a senior advisor to her father, former President Trump; and the family real estate company of Jared Kushner, the previous president’s son-in-law.

Ducklo began working for the PR firm in June. His company bio does mention his brief stint with the Biden administration.

In a statement to Punchbowl News, Heller said that it’s time Ducklo be allowed to move on from that mistake. She added that Ducklo has already been tasked with significant cases of interest.

“Like all of us, he’s made mistakes, paid the consequences, and learned from it,” stated Heller. “We’re incredibly excited to have him on our team where he’s already leading high-profile crises and issues engagements in NY, LA, and globally, and becoming a trusted advisor to corporate leaders.”

Ducklo published an official statement in mid-February apologizing for his behavior.

No words can express my regret, my embarrassment, and my disgust for my behavior. I used language that no woman should ever have to hear from anyone, especially in my situation where she was just trying to do her job. It was language that was abhorrent, disrespectful, and unacceptable. I am devastated to have embarrassed and disappointed my White House colleagues and President Biden, and after a discussion with White House communications leadership tonight, I resigned my position and will not be returning from administrative leave. I know this was terrible. I know I can’t take it back. But I also know I can learn from it and do better. This incident is not representative of who I am as a person, and I will be determined to earn back the trust of everyone I have let down because of my intolerable actions.

Ducklo reportedly told Palmeri that he would “destroy” her, and accused Palmeri of being “jealous” of his relationship with McCammond and of her.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “TJ Ducklo” by TJ Ducklo.