(Note: Dr. Lander resigned a few hours after this story was posted on Feb. 7, 2022)
After a two-month investigation, the White House has determined that Pres. Joe Biden’s top science advisor, Dr. Eric Lander, bullied and demeaned subordinates in violation of the White House’s workplace bullying policy.
As a result, Dr. Lander, a Cabinet member and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was counseled while the main object of his derision, his then-general counsel, Rachel Wallace, was transferred to a different job.
Wait a minute… Dr. Lander kept his job and Wallace, a target of his bullying, was reassigned? Some would consider a reassignment under these circumstances to be a penalty that will discourage other complainants from stepping forward.
When Biden took office, he famously said he expected “honesty and decency” from workers in his administration and would fire anyone who shows disrespect to others “on the spot.” But not Dr. Lander, who has worked on the Biden administration’s pandemic response.
Biden’s policy apparently includes a loophole for important people like Dr. Lander.
According to Politico, which broke the story, the internal White House investigation found that 14 current and former OSTP staff who worked under Dr. Lander shared similar descriptions of a toxic work environment where Lander bullied individuals, cut people off and dismissed subordinates. Multiple women, many who declined to be identified out of fear, said Dr. Lander spoke to them in a demeaning and abrasive way.
Allegedly after learning of Politico’s interest, Dr. Lander on Friday issued an apology to OSTP staffers, acknowledging that he has “spoken to colleagues within OSTP in a disrespectful and demeaning way… I especially want to apologize to those of you who I treated poorly, or were present at the time.”
According to Legistorm, Wallace was Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and formerly served in the U.S. Department of State Office of Global Women’s Issues.
Dr. Lander was a leader of the Human Genome Project and a founder of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He served under Barack Obama as cochair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.