President Joe Biden’s top science adviser Eric Lander resigned on Monday evening following reports that he “bullied and demeaned” his subordinates.
Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), wrote in his resignation letter:
It has been a great honor to serve as your Science Advisor and to work with the extraordinarily talented career and non-career colleagues at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. I am writing to submit my resignation, to be effective no later than February 18 in order to permit an orderly transfer.
Lander resignation letter —> pic.twitter.com/Yq3w8YXp8i
— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) February 8, 2022
Lander’s resignation comes on the heels of reports that he violated the White House’s workplace policy. An internal White House investigation found “credible evidence of disrespectful interactions with staff by Dr. Lander and OSTP leadership,” according to Politico:
There was also “credible evidence” that Lander had spoken “harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues in front of other colleagues,” [White House deputy director of management and administration for personnel Christian 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,” Peele said in the recording.
Lander said he was “devastated” that his words hurt his OSTP colleagues in his resignation letter:
I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them.
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.
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.
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.
US President Joe Biden listens during a Gun Violence Strategies Partnership meeting at the New York Police Department Headquarters in New York on February 3, 2022. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
Lander was the first OSTP director to be a presidential cabinet member when Biden elevated his science adviser to a cabinet-level role. Lander was the last of Biden’s initial 22 cabinet nominees to be confirmed by the Senate.
White House employees called for Lander to be fired due to Biden’s inauguration day pledge to fire “on the spot” any employees who were disrespectful to other workers. “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. On the spot — no if, ands, or buts,” Biden said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden accepted Lander’s resignation letter, despite telling reporters earlier in the day that the White House would monitor Lander’s conduct more closely in the future.
“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.”