'Everyone is afraid of him': White House probe finds 'credible evidence' that top science adviser bullied, disrespected subordinates

Eric Lander.
(Image credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A recent internal White House investigation found that President Biden's top science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy Eric Lander "bullied and demeaned his subordinates and violated the White House's workplace policy," Politico reports per the investigation, as well as interviews with current and former staffers.

The probe, conducted over a two-month period, found that Lander was "bullying" his former general counsel, Rachel Wallace. It also concluded there was "credible evidence" of "disrespectful interactions with staff by Dr. Lander and OSTP leadership" — including moments where he spoke "harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues in front of other colleagues" and to women "in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff."

Staff interviewed by Politico detailed a similar toxic work environment, "where they say Lander frequently bullied, cut off, and dismissed subordinates," Politico writes.

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Wallace, Lander's ex-general counsel, said the director "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."

On Friday, reportedly once he became aware of Politico's forthcoming report, Lander apologized for his behavior in an email to staff. Still, some staff are wondering why he hasn't been more seriously punished, especially after Biden pledged to honor a zero-tolerance staff disrespect policy among his political appointees, Politico notes.

"Everyone is afraid of him," said one OSTP staffer of Lander.

"There are a lot of brilliant people in this country," said another. "I completely reject the notion that his brilliance is so singular and critical to the nation that his behavior is excusable."

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