White House: A top scientist quits because of treatment of staff

WASHINGTON (AP), President Joe Biden's top science advisor Eric Lander resigned hours after the White House confirmed credible evidence that he had mistreated his staff. This was the first Cabinet-level resignation of the Biden administration.

White House: A top scientist quits because of treatment of staff

White House: A top scientist quits because of treatment of staff

WASHINGTON (AP), President Joe Biden's top science advisor Eric Lander resigned hours after the White House confirmed credible evidence that he had mistreated his staff. This was the first Cabinet-level resignation of the Biden administration.

A workplace complaint prompted an internal review that found evidence that Lander was the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to Biden. It also revealed that Lander bullied and treated staffers disrespectfully. Although the White House expressed concern about Lander's interactions with staff, it initially indicated Monday that he would remain in the job despite Biden’s Inauguration Day statement that he expected honesty and decency from all those who work for his administration, and that he would fire anyone who does not respect others "on the spot."

Later Monday night, Jen Psaki, press secretary, stated that Biden had accepted Lander’s resignation with gratitude for his work at OTSP regarding the pandemic and the Cancer Moonshot, climate changes, and other important priorities.

He said, "It is impossible to continue effectively in this role, and it is far too important for me to be hindered by the work of my office."

According to the White House, Biden didn't request Lander’s resignation.

Psaki stated that senior administrators had met with Lander earlier Monday to discuss his actions and management of office. He indicated that he would be permitted to continue in the job, and that the administration was following a process to deal with workplace complaints.

"Following the completion of the thorough investigation into those actions, senior White House officials have conveyed directly Dr. Lander that his behaviour was unacceptable, and the corrective measures that were required, which the White House will monitor to ensure compliance moving forward," she stated.

Psaki said, "The president was very clear with us all about his high expectations for how he and his employees should create a respectful work environment."

According to the White House, Lander and OSTP were required to make certain corrective steps as part of the review. The review found no evidence of gender-based discrimination, and Lander and OSTP were required to take corrective actions as part of the review.

Lander issued an apology Friday to his staff, acknowledging that he had spoken to colleagues in OSTP in a disrespectful and demeaning manner.

He said, "I am deeply sorry about my conduct." "I want to express my deepest regret to all of you who were present or I treated poorly."

Although the White House review was done weeks ago, it was confirmed by Lander and Lander only after Politico reported.

Biden's "Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy", which was established when he assumed office, was intended to be a contrast to the demeaning treatment of former President Donald Trump and his aides.

Lander's behavior and the White House's initial decision not to support him caused some confusion inside the White House as well as among Biden supporters. It also created an unnecessary distraction from Biden’s agenda.

Lander realized late Monday that he was in a untenable situation and decided to resign effective February 18, 2002, "in order for an orderly transfer."

The Office of Science and Technology Policy has five deputy directors, four women and one male. Kei Koizumi serves as the deputy director for policy. Jane Lubchenco, former chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is the deputy for climate science. Sally Benson serves as the deputy director for energy. Carrie Wolinetz, the deputy director for life and health science, is Carrie. Alondra Nelson serves as the deputy director of science and society.

Just before Lander's resignation was announced, the world's largest general scientific society forbid Lander from speaking at its annual meeting. American Association for the Advancement of Science Chief executive Officer Sudip Parikh stated that he wasn't sure if this had anything to do the resignation.

Parikh said Monday night to The Associated Press, "I hope we sent the right signal about what's most important." "These things must be dealt with immediately. This applies not only to sciences but also to workplaces across America.

Parikh said, "This administration has invested a lot of its political capital in science and technology." It's a difficult role to fill. It is possible, and even likely, that this person could be a female.

Biden elevated Lander to Cabinet-rank, and Lander was prominently present with the president when he launched his "Cancer Moonshot” program to mobilize federal resources for research and treatment of cancer diseases.

Lander, a mathematician as well as a molecular biologist, was the founding director of Harvard's Broad Institute of MIT. Lander was the lead author of the first paper that revealed the details of the human gene, the "book of Life".

The confirmation of his Biden role was delayed for months by senators who sought more information on meetings Lander had with Jeffrey Epstein, a disgraced financial advisor who was accused of sex trafficking and then committed suicide. Lander was also criticized for downplaying two Nobel Prize-winning female scientists.

Lander apologised for a 2016 article that he had written which downplayed the contributions of female scientists at his confirmation hearing last January. He also called Epstein an "abhorrent person" at the hearing.

Lander stated that he underestimated the importance of biochemists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier's key advances. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry later.

Lander's resignation on the grounds that Biden's respectful work environment policy was echoed by the February 2021 resignation from TJ Ducklo (White House deputy press secretary), who was suspended after threatening to confront a reporter.

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