Biden appointee Eric Lander, who was director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, resigned Monday.
An internal review of Linder’s conduct confirmed allegations he had bullied subordinates, according to Fox News.
“I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them,” Lander wrote in his letter of resignation. “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.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the resignation in a statement Monday evening, saying, “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. He knows that Dr. Lander will continue to make important contributions to the scientific community in the years ahead.”
Politico reported Monday that a two-month White House internal investigation had concluded that Lander “bullied and demeaned his subordinates and violated the White House’s workplace policy.”
That report highlighted President Joe Biden’s claim that anyone in his administration who bullies lower-level staffers would be fired “on the spot. No ifs, ands or buts.”
According to Politico, Lander was reprimanded and had sent an apologetic email to the office’s staff — a level of punishment that caused staff to wonder whether Biden’s promise was hollow rhetoric.
“Mr. President, please protect the dignity and well-being of our staff by standing by your zero-tolerance policy,” an OSTP staffer was quoted as saying.
“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,” the staffer said.
During Monday’s White House briefing, Psaki said that keeping Lander on board was fully in sync with Biden’s policy.
“Senior White House officials conveyed directly to Dr. Lander that his behavior was inappropriate and the corrective actions that were needed, which were — which the White House will monitor for compliance moving forward,” she said.
Another reporter followed up by asking Psaki how a reprimand fit with Biden’s one-strike policy.
“It was conveyed through meetings with senior White House officials directly that his behavior was inappropriate, corrective action was needed, and we will monitor for compliance to that — to those actions that were required,” she said.
“Again, I think you 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.
“But it doesn’t sound like a zero-tolerance policy if that’s the case,” the reporter said.
“Well, our objective and the president’s objective is to prevent this behavior from ever happening again,” Psaki said.
Prior to Lander’s resignation, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said he should have been fired for breaking the rules of conduct.
“Bullying or demeaning subordinates is never acceptable,” Wicker said, according to The Washington Post. “Dr. Lander’s apology to his OSTP staff indicates that the allegations are credible … If Lander’s behavior was disrespectful, then he should not continue to serve in the administration.”
Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for the Post, said the initial refusal to fire Lander was “striking and frankly inexplicable.”
‘[R]efusing to fire someone found to have engaged in such egregious conduct that makes the president look insincere and indifferent was tone deaf, to put it mildly,” she wrote.