White House Probe: Biden’s Top Science Adviser Bullied Subordinates

White House Probe: Biden's Top Science Adviser Bullied Subordinates Eric Lander smiles Eric Lander, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 07 February 2022 10:07 AM

An internal White House investigation found that President Joe Biden's top science adviser bullied subordinates and violated workplace policy, Politico reported.

"Credible evidence" found that Eric Lander, a Cabinet member and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), bullied his then-general counsel, Rachel Wallace, Politico said.

The media outlet based its report on a recorded January briefing about the two-month investigation’s findings. The roughly 20-minute briefing included a representative of the White House Counsel's office.

"[The investigation found] credible evidence of disrespectful interactions with staff by Dr. Lander and OSTP leadership," said Christian Peele, the White House’s deputy director of management and administration for personnel, Politico reported.

The media outlet reported that there was also "credible evidence" that Lander had spoken "harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues in front of other colleagues," Peele said, according to the recording.

"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 shared similar descriptions of a toxic work environment, Politico said. The OSTP office consists of roughly 140 people.

"[Lander] has a bit of Jekyll and Hyde personality. If he's in a meeting with external people, he's positive and ebullient, even. It's behind closed doors that he changes," one OSTP staffer told Politico. "There are a lot of brilliant people in this country. I completely reject the notion that his brilliance is so singular and critical to the nation that his behavior is excusable."

Linder, considered a key player in the administration's COVID-19 pandemic response, sent an email late Friday to all OSTP staff apologizing for his behavior.

"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," he wrote, Politico reported. "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."

Biden has said that any of his staffers or political appointees who disrespected their colleagues would be fired "On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts."

"A full and thorough investigation was conducted" and "White House leadership met with Dr. Lander to discuss the seriousness of the matter and the President’s expectation that all staff interactions be conducted with respect," a White House spokesperson wrote to Politico.

Lander, who came to prominence for his work mapping the human genome, was picked by Biden to head OSTP, in part, to show the administration would entrust scientists and medical experts as they work to combat the coronavirus.

Biden wrote Lander in January 2021 to urge him to "refresh and reinvigorate our national science and technology strategy to set us on a strong course for the next 75 years."

Original Article