Report: Biden’s Top Science Advisor Resigns After Investigation Found He Humiliated, Degraded Subordinates
One staffer under Advisor Eric Lander: “Numerous women have been left in tears, traumatized, and feeling vulnerable and isolated.”
Biden tried to portray himself as the exact opposite of how the media portrayed Trump. He promised to fire anyone who disrespects others because of the supposed horrible treatment that happened in Trump’s White House:
“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 ifs, ands or buts.”
Oh, look. Biden broke another promise. It turns out he’s just like any other politician.
A White House investigation revealed that Biden’s top science advisor, Eric Lander, is not a nice guy. He rules the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OTSP) with an iron fist.
The Washington Post reported late Monday night that Lander quit.
NEW: Eric Lander has resigned. Here's his reisignation letter.
first reported by Wapo. pic.twitter.com/KVwGtuOQ0o
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) February 8, 2022
How convenient. Biden didn’t fire him right away as he promised. Therefore, Lander gets to quit and slip away in the quiet night as if nothing happened.
But a lot happened. I dissected Politico‘s report on the investigation before Lander quit.
Investigation Into Lander’s Gross Behavior
The OTSP staffers unveiled a whole lot of misogyny from Lander:
President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, Eric Lander, bullied and demeaned his subordinates and violated the White House’s workplace policy, an internal White House investigation recently concluded, according to interviews and an audio recording obtained by POLITICO.
The two-month investigation found “credible evidence” that Lander — a Cabinet member and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy [OTSP] who the White House touts as a key player in the pandemic response — was “bullying” toward his then-general counsel, Rachel Wallace, according to a recorded January briefing on the investigation’s findings.
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,” according to the roughly 20-minute briefing, which included a representative of the White House Counsel’s office.
Holy moly. The OTSP has about 140 employees. Fourteen current and former employees described how “Lander frequently bullied, cut off and dismissed subordinates.” Nine of those staffers mentioned, “Lander yelled and sometimes made people feel humiliated in front of their peers.”
Many of these people remained anonymous because they did not want to face retaliation from Lander.
Wallace is one of the few who went on record. She recounted how Lander demeaned her (emphasis mine):
Wallace, a career civil servant who has worked across the executive branch since the Clinton administration, including at the OSTP during both the Obama and Trump administrations, had registered a complaint to Peele last September against “Lander and other OSTP leadership,” according to the recording.
Wallace told POLITICO that 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.”
In addition to his behavior toward subordinates, Wallace, who is now deputy counsel but retained her title as chief operating officer at OSTP, accused Lander of retaliating against her by demoting her. The White House investigation did not conclude her reassignment was “procedurally improper,” but that she had been excluded from “meetings, conversations and assignments, in violation of the safe and respectful workplace policy,” according to the briefing.
Wallace did not want to speak to Politico. She changed her mind because of Lander’s lousy apology.
Lander told the OSTP employees: “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. 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.”
Wallace claimed the “apology did not come close to addressing the full extent of his egregious behavior.”
Wallace did not hold back: “He did so much more than speak to staff in a ‘disrespectful or demeaning way.’ Lander’s apology was not only disingenuous. It compounded the deep hurt and damage he has caused by ignoring these other acts of aggression, harassment and retaliation.”
The OSTP spokesperson stated the “investigation did not find credible evidence of gender-based discrimination.”
How is that possible? Wallace’s testimony alone shows Lander’s disdain for women. He bullies and talks down to both sexes, but six current and former OSTP staffers mentioned Lander “appears to take delight in trying to embarrass female colleagues in front of others.”
OSTP staff members are furious (emphasis mine):
“[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,” said one OSTP staffer. “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.”
“Mr. President, please protect the dignity and well-being of our staff by standing by your zero-tolerance policy,” said a second OSTP staffer, who said they believed Lander should be fired.
“The Joe Biden I voted for would never knowingly empower an aggressor like Lander who openly targets women by publicly humiliating, infantilizing and intimidating them into submission,” said the second OSTP staffer.
“But Lander seems to know he’s protected. The most terrifying part about him is the open and brazen way he conducts his abuse. After repeatedly insulting and humiliating me in front of colleagues, Lander acknowledged his inability to control himself, telling me ‘I hate that I do it,’” the staffer said.
“Everyone is afraid of him,” said a third OSTP staffer. “Lander yells — screams. He’ll ask the same thing over and over but getting louder and louder each time,” said the staffer, who has witnessed his behavior.
The White House’s Lackluster Response
The White House punished Lander. It doesn’t sound so bad:
As discipline, the White House required Lander to hold more collaborative meetings with subordinates, such as “brown bag sessions,” Peele said in the recorded briefing. It also mandated more trainings for all staff on the workplace policy. Peele said in the briefing there would be a check-in at the 30 to 45 day mark to see if the problematic behavior has ceased.
That sounds too easy for someone like Lander. Let’s see how Psaki addressed the investigation:
REPORTER: “Does the fact that Dr. Lander has a job still cheapen the President’s promise to fire anyone who treats colleagues with disrespect on the spot?”
PSAKI: “Well, again, 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.”
Asked Psaki what the WH’s message is to WH and federal employees who took Biden at his word that he’d fire people “on the spot. No ifs ands or buts” if they treated colleagues disrespectfully, given that Dr. Lander wasn’t fired after the investigation https://t.co/Ped4LTfhlw pic.twitter.com/vWMYYWBJg9
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) February 7, 2022
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