Eric Lander, President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, has resigned, just hours after the White House confirmed that an internal investigation had found credible evidence that he had mistreated his staff, marking the first cabinet-level departure of the Biden administration.
An internal review last year, motivated by allegations in the workplace, found evidence that Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Biden’s science adviser, had intimidated and treated employees unfairly. The White House reprimanded Lander for his conversations with his staff, but initially indicated on Monday that he would be allowed to remain in the job, despite Biden’s inaugural day claims that he had worked for his administration and that he would be “honest and decent” by those who fired him. Expected. Anyone who shows disrespect to others “in place.”
But later Monday evening, Press Secretary Jane Sackie said Biden “accepted Lander’s resignation with gratitude for his work at the OTSP on epidemics, cancer munitions, climate change and other key priorities.”
Lander said in his resignation letter, “I am devastated that I have hurt my past and present colleagues in the way I have spoken to them.”
“I believe it is not possible to continue my role effectively, and it is very important that the work of this office be interrupted,” he added.
The White House has said that Biden did not request Lander’s resignation.
Earlier Monday, Saki said senior administration officials had met with Lander about his activities and office management, but indicated that he would be allowed to remain in the job, saying the administration was following a “process” to handle workplace complaints.
“Following the conclusion of a thorough investigation into these actions, senior White House officials informed Dr. Lander directly that his conduct was inappropriate, and that corrective action was needed, which the White House will monitor to move forward,” he said. .
Saki added, “The president was crystal clear to all of us about his high expectations of how he and his staff should create a respectable work environment.”
The White House says Lander and the OSTP will need to take some corrective action as part of the review. It added that the review did not find “credible evidence” of gender-based discrimination and that re-employment of staff who made the original complaint was deemed “appropriate.”
Lander issued an apology to his office staff on Friday, acknowledging that “I have spoken to colleagues within the OSTP in a disrespectful or derogatory manner.”
“I am deeply sorry for my behavior,” he added. “I especially apologize to those of you who have been abusive, or were present at the time.”
The White House review was completed weeks ago, but it was confirmed – and Lander apologized – only after being reported by Politico.
Biden’s “safe and dignified workplace policy” was established when he took office, and former President Donald Trump and his allies were meant to work against each other and with political enemies, often in abusive ways.
Lander’s behavior and the White House’s initial decision to side with him caused some concern within the White House and among Biden’s allies, and created an unnecessary distraction from Biden’s agenda.
Towards the end of Monday, Lander believed he was in a disabled position and resigned effectively after 18 February, “to allow an orderly transfer.”
The Science and Technology Policy Office has five Deputy Directors – four women and one man. Kei Koizumi is the Deputy Director of Policy. Jane Lubchenko, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a deputy for climate science. Sally Benson Deputy of Energy. Carrie Olinetz is the Deputy Director of Health and Life Sciences. Alondra Nelson is the Deputy Director of Science and Society.
The world’s largest general science society barred Lander from speaking at their annual meeting shortly before announcing his resignation. Sudip Parikh, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said he did not know if it had anything to do with the resignation.
“I hope we have sent the right message about what is important,” Parikh told the Associated Press on Monday night. “It’s time to dump her and move on. Not just in science, but in the workplace across America. “
“It’s an administration that has put a lot of their political capital into science and technology,” Parikh added. “It’s a difficult role to fulfill. It’s very possible and most likely that person could be a woman.”
Lander, whose position was promoted to cabinet-rank by Biden, appeared prominent with the president last week when he re-launched his “Cancer Munshot” program to marshal federal resources behind cancer research and treatment.
Lander is a founding director at MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute, a mathematician and molecular biologist. He was the lead author of the first paper announcing the details of the human genome, the so-called “book of life”.
His confirmation of his role in the Biden administration was delayed for months as senators sought more information about his meeting with the late Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of sex trafficking before committing suicide. Lander was also criticized for downplaying the contributions of two Nobel Prize-winning female scientists.
At her confirmation hearing last year, Lander apologized for a 2016 article she wrote that downplayed the work of female scientists. At the hearing, he also called Epstein a “disgusting person.”
Lander said he was “overwhelmed by the importance of those key advances” by biochemists Emmanuel Charpentier and Jennifer Dudna. The two were later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Lander’s departure in February 2021 echoed the resignation of TJ Daklo, the White House Deputy Press Secretary, who had been suspended for threatening conversations with a journalist and then resigned.