A lengthy internal White House investigation found that President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, Eric Lander, bullied and was disrespectful to his subordinates.
Lander serves as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and is a Cabinet member. Politico first reported on the two-month internal investigation, which cited “credible evidence” of Lander’s bullying.
According to a 20-minute briefing obtained by Politico, the White House deputy director of management and administration for personnel Christian Peele said the investigation found “credible evidence of disrespectful interactions with staff by Dr. Lander and OSTP leadership.”
“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,” Peele said during the briefing.
Specifically, the investigation found that Lander bullied his former-general counsel Rachel Wallace, according to Politico. Lander apologized to staff in an email Friday after his aides learned of Politico’s incoming reporting, according to the publication. (RELATED: Everything We Know About Jeffrey Epstein’s Ties To Biden’s Science Nominee)
“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 according to Politico. “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.”
Politico also cited numerous current and former OSTP staffers in its piece detailing Lander’s behavior. Lander allegedly laughed at and taunted subordinates in public settings and seemed to take particular joy in embarrassing female colleagues, Politico reported, citing the anonymous OSTP staffers.
“Everyone is afraid of him,” one OSTP staffer told the publication.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the debacle during Monday’s press briefing, assuring reporters that Lander’s behavior is “not acceptable.” Still, Lander has not been fired, despite Biden’s promise to fire anyone who treats “another colleague with disrespect.”
“If you are ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot,” the president vowed on Inauguration Day. “On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts.”
Psaki defended the path the White House has laid out for Lander, which includes him being “monitored for compliance.”
“In addition to a full, thorough investigation, it was conveyed during meetings with senior White House officials directly that behavior was inappropriate, corrective action was needed and we will monitor for compliance to that – to those actions that were required again. I think he may have also seen- or it was reported- that he also sent a note to his staff conveying his commitment to abiding by that, and we certainly hope that that is the case,” Psaki said, later deflecting when pressed about Biden’s firing promise.
“I would just reiterate that the president takes his commitment to having a respectful work environment incredibly seriously, and it’s something that he conveys clearly to all of us on a regular basis,” Psaki added.