President Joe Biden's science adviser and the country's top scientist, Dr. Eric Lander, has apologized after he was accused of addressing White House Office of Science and Technology Policy staff in a "demeaning way." Dr. Lander sent an email to OSTP staff late on Friday apologizing for his conduct after a White House investigation uncovered evidence he violated the White House policy for respect in the workplace.
As Politico first reported, the message to staff said, “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.”
Dr. Lander is the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and is also President Joe Biden's science adviser. Lander oversees around 140 people and according to an investigation, 14 current and former staffers in the Office of Science and Technology Policy reported similar aspects of a toxic work environment, Axios reported.
An internal review in 2021, after a workplace complaint was filed, showed evidence that Lander treated staff disrespectfully and bullied them. A White House review of the issue was able to find evidence that Dr. Lander violated "Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy." The Biden administration gave Lander counseling and reportedly plans to let him keep his job.
President Biden issued a directive on day one of this presidency that demanded "honesty and decency" from his administration and said that he would fire anyone "on the spot" who disrespected others.
"OSTP is an amazing organization with amazing people taking on big, ambitious things. You deserve better, and I will do better. You have my absolute commitment," Dr. Lander said in the email to staff.
On Jan 20, 2021, newly-elected President Joe Biden said, standing before his appointees remotely, "If you're 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. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity."
As Axios notes, while there were multiple complaints from women regarding Lander's behavior towards staff, a White House investigation did not find evidence credible evidence of gender-based discrimination, an OSTP spokesperson said.