President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, Eric Lander, resigned Monday evening after an internal White House investigation found he bullied subordinates.
Serving as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a two-month investigation found that Lander was disrespectful towards staff and spoke to women colleagues “in a demeaning or abrasive way” in public settings, White House deputy director of management and administration for personnel Christian Peele said in a 20-minute briefing outlining the investigation.
The briefing and internal investigation was first reported by Politico.
Lander’s resignation comes hours after White House press secretary Jen Psaki repeatedly dodged questions about the debacle – including why Biden, who publicly promised to fire anyone “on the spot” who was disrespectful towards colleagues – had not yet let Lander loose.
“I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them,” Lander wrote to Biden in his resignation letter. “We have assembled the most amazing set of people at OSTP, and we have together set out the most ambitious goals that this agency has ever attempted. I have sought to push myself and my colleagues to reach our shared goals — including at times challenging and criticizing.”
Earlier today, Psaki was reminded of Biden’s promise to fire anyone who treated another colleague with disrespect. The press secretary, at the time, said an investigation into Lander’s actions had been conducted and he’d be “monitored for compliance.”
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) February 8, 2022
“But it is clear that things I said, and the way I said them, crossed the line at times into being disrespectful and demeaning, to both men and women. That was never my intention,” Lander continued. “Nonetheless, it is my fault and my responsibility. I will take this lesson forward. I believe it is not possible to continue effectively in my role, and the work of this office is far too important to be hindered.”
Psaki said in a statement that Biden accepted Lander’s resignation “with gratitude” for the work he had done. (RELATED: Everything We Know About Jeffrey Epstein’s Ties To Biden’s Science Nominee)
“The President accepted Dr. Eric Lander’s resignation letter this evening with gratitude for his work at OSTP on the pandemic, the Cancer Moonshot, climate change, and other key priorities,” Psaki said. “He knows that Dr. Lander will continue to make important contributions to the scientific community in the years ahead.”
Lander apologized to staff in an email Friday after his aides learned of Politico’s incoming reporting, according to the publication. One OSTP staffer told Politico that “everyone is afraid of” Lander, while other current and former staffers said it appeared he took particular joy in embarrassing female colleagues.
Lander is not the first from the Biden White House to be the subject of bullying allegations. In February 2021, the president’s deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo resigned after a story surfaced accusing him of demeaning and intimidating a Politico reporter.
Ducklo was hit with a one-week suspension with no pay prior to his resignation.