Eric Lander, Biden’s top science adviser, resigns: Report

President Biden’s top science adviser resigned Monday night after an internal White House investigation found that he violated workplace policy by bullying and demeaning staffers.

The White House said Eric Lander resigned, a move that came as Mr. Biden was being criticized for not living up to a pledge to fire any appointee who showed disrespect to colleagues.

In his resignation letter to the president, Mr. Lander said he was “devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them.”

“I have sought to push myself and my colleagues to reach our shared goals — including at times challenging and criticizing,” he told Mr. Biden. “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.”

He said it was “not possible to continue effectively in my role, and the work of this office is far too important to be hindered.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president accepted Mr. Lander‘s resignation “with gratitude” for his work on the COVID-19 pandemic, a “cancer moonshot” initiative and other priorities.

He knows that Dr. Lander will continue to make important contributions to the scientific community in the years ahead,” Ms. Psaki said.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Psaki had said that the White House was allowing Mr. Lander to keep his job after being warned to change his behavior.

“Senior White House officials conveyed directly to Dr. Lander that his behavior was inappropriate, and the corrective actions that were needed,” she said then.

Ms. Psaki had said the White House would “monitor” the president’s science adviser going forward.

Giving Mr. Lander a warning ran counter to the president’s promise immediately after his inauguration to fire “on the spot” all White House officials who treat colleagues with disrespect or talks down to others.

“On the spot,” the president vowed a year ago. “No ifs, ands or buts.”

A two-month internal investigation found that Mr. Lander, as head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, violated White House workplace policy by demeaning and belittling subordinates, particularly women, Ms. Psaki confirmed Monday afternoon.

Asked repeatedly why the president had retreated from his vow to fire such people, Ms. Psaki said the White House didn’t have a “process” in place a year ago for investigating complaints.

“Nothing about his behavior is acceptable to anyone here at all,” she said. “Quite the opposite. But there is now a process in place that was not in place at the time to evaluate and determine what the next steps should be taken in the event that any behavior like this occurs, to prevent it from happening in the future. That is exactly what happened in this case.”

Mr. Lander led the president’s initiative on finding a cure for cancer, an initiative that was rolled out last week. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain also said last month that Mr. Lander is the point person on specific boosters for COVID-19.

The Senate raised questions during the confirmation process for Mr. Lander last spring about reports that he had met with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He was eventually confirmed on a voice vote.

Mr. Lander was accused of retaliating against staffers who questioned him and driving them out of his office in some cases.

Health, The New York Today

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