Investigation Finds Biden’s Top Science Advisor Bullied His Staff
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An internal investigation found that Eric Lander, President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, bullied and demeaned subordinates and violated the White House’s workplace policy.
Lander, a cabinet member and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was “bullying” his then-general counsel, Rachel Wallace.
According to Wallace, Lander “retaliated against staff for speaking out and asking questions by calling them names, disparaging them, embarrassing them in front of their peers, laughing at them, shunning them, taking away their duties, and replacing them or driving them out of the agency. Numerous women have been left in tears, traumatized, and feeling vulnerable and isolated.”
Christian Peele, the White House’s deputy director of management and administration for personnel, said that the investigation also concluded that there was “credible evidence of disrespectful interactions with staff by Dr. Lander and OSTP leadership.”
There was also “credible evidence” that Lander had spoken “harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues in front of other colleagues,” Peele said.
“The investigation found credible evidence of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff.”
Fourteen current and former OSTP staffers who worked under Lander this past year shared similar descriptions of a toxic work environment where they say he frequently bullied, cut off, and dismissed subordinates. Some said Lander yelled and humiliated people in front of their peers.
According to POLITICO, who first reported the news, Lander’s behavior is at odds with Biden’s Day-1 warning to his political appointees that anyone who disrespected their colleagues would be fired “on the spot. No ifs, ands or buts.”
After Lander caught wind of the outlet’s investigation, he sent an email of apology to all OSTP staff.
“I am deeply sorry for my conduct. I especially want to apologize to those of you who I treated poorly or were present at the time,” Lander wrote.
“It’s my responsibility to set a respectful tone for our community. It’s clear that I have not lived up to this responsibility. I have spoken to colleagues within OSTP in a disrespectful or demeaning way.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that “a full and thorough investigation was conducted” after a complaint was filed against Lander. She said senior White House officials told Lander after the investigation that “his behavior was inappropriate” while also informing him of the “corrective action that were needed.”
When asked why Lander wasn’t being fired, Psaki would not provide a direct answer. Pressed on what corrective changes Lander was ordered to make, Psaki said she would check for more specific details.