Top science advisor to the White House resigns over mistreatment of staff

Top science advisor to the White House resigns over mistreatment of staff

President Joe Biden’s top science adviser Eric Lander resigned Monday, hours after the White House confirmed that an internal investigation found credible evidence that he mistreated his staff, marking the first Cabinet-level departure of the Biden administration.

A two-month White House investigation found “credible evidence” that Dr. Eric Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, had spoken “harshly and disrespectfully to colleagues.”

“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday night in a statement. “He knows that Dr. Lander will continue to make important contributions to the scientific community in the years ahead.”

In a letter to Biden on Monday night, Lander said he would leave the White House by February 18. “I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them,” he wrote.

“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.”

Earlier in the evening, the news broke that the American Association for the Advancement of Science had disinvited Lander from attending the group’s annual meeting next week.

The group warned that “toxic behavioral issues still make their way into the STEM community where they stifle participation and innovation” and said Lander would no longer be giving a speech, according to Politico.

On Monday afternoon, Psaki defended the Biden administration for keeping the president’s top science adviser after the review.

“The president has crystal clear expectations with all of us about how we are to treat our colleagues, treat people who work for us, and that is what he expects for people across the building,” the press secretary said when asked how workers should square Lander’s job security with Biden’s day-one pledge.

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