Updated Dec 23, 2023 - Politics & Policy

West Wing insiders pile on former staffer for breaking Biden code

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

An unusual load of West Wing dirty laundry is being aired about a former staffer, giving a vivid look at one of the cultural pillars of Bidenworld and President Biden himself.

Driving the news: A surprising number of President Biden's current and former aides — at least six — are lining up to tell backstairs tales to The Daily Mail, a London tabloid with racy online U.S. coverage which frequently features Hunter Biden.

  • They're all talking because the former staffer — former First Lady press secretary Michael LaRosa — broke Biden code of silence and has repeatedly mocked the Biden campaign strategy on cable TV and social media.
  • For months, many of LaRosa's former colleagues seethed as he went on CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets second-guessing the Biden team and boom! — a rare Biden spectacle.
  • Biden's staff are strongly discouraged from anything resembling self-promotion since they are there to serve the principal, who they call "the Boss."

What they're saying: "I don't believe there is a world in which this First Lady is pleased with her husband's team seeking out the same British tabloid that regularly smears and lies about her son, to do the same to her former press secretary, who traveled by her side for three years," LaRosa told Axios.

  • A White House official said: "As Axios knows, having White House officials quoted on background in an unauthorized way does not mean the White House spent time on something."

Between the lines: Loyalty is the key currency among Biden aides and perceived disloyalty, fair or not, is a quick way to get exiled from much of Bidenworld.

  • When they left the White House, some former aides were struck by how their superiors would publicly and privately praise them for their "loyalty." They took it as a compliment but also a warning not to stray.
  • One Biden aide said they felt differently: "I've never heard anything that could be interpreted like that, only thanking people for their work and friendship and shouting out their good qualities."
  • Many of LaRosa's ex-colleagues disagreed with his strategic points, but the few who agreed felt they would alienate their former co-workers by saying so and have remained quiet.

Some former Biden aides feel the feuding is ultimately unhelpful.

  • "We have always kept our internal disagreements internal and it is unfortunate that these recent internal conflicts are spilling out into the public," one told Axios.

Zoom in: Current and former Biden aides told the DailyMail that LaRosa exaggerated his role inside the White House after he left in the summer of 2022 in order to enhance his public profile.

  • A person who served with him in the White House told The Daily Mail: 'This whole idea that he was this very senior insider and was like very close to the president or First Lady, and focused on the campaign and political strategy, that could not be farther from the truth,'
  • LaRosa further provoked ex-colleagues by criticizing the Biden campaign for reportedly considering bringing back former deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo, who resigned from the White House just weeks into the administration after reportedly lashing out at a reporter during an off-the-record phone call.
  • LaRosa told Politico earlier this year that Ducklo's return was "a stunning lack of judgment by those whom he entrusted to responsibly staff his reelection campaign," citing the president's day-one pledge that if they "treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot."

Ducklo, a stalwart Biden defender going back to the 2020 primary campaign, has widespread loyalty inside Bidenworld even among those who think he acted inappropriately.

The bottom line: As for his strategic critiques, LaRosa told Axios that "Democrats with far greater platforms than I have been much harsher, in my opinion. It's also not my role to be their flack."

Go deeper