The White House has taken another blow with the departure of Eric Lander, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to the President. Lander is leaving his job after widespread allegations of bullying and abusive behavior directed against his subordinates. Similar accusations are increasingly surfacing about Kamala Harris, whose office is rapidly losing vital employees amid reports of a toxic work environment.
White House loses another important figure
Dr. Eric Lander’s departure is a major embarrassment for an administration that has placed such a heavy emphasis on the importance of trusting its scientists.
14 of the roughly 140 staffers who worked under Lander at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) came forward to complain about his allegedly unprofessional behavior in the workplace.
The most damaging accusations came from Rachel Wallace, a civil servant who worked for OSTP under both the Obama and Trump administrations.
She reported that Lander routinely bullied and harassed female subordinates in particular, going out of his way to disrespect and humiliate them.
Wallace claims that Lander demoted her after she complained about his behavior. Biden claims to have a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of behavior, but the White House did little to address concerns about Lander.
Some staffers are now wondering if that zero-tolerance policy for bullying and abuse in the workplace was actually just a PR pledge (it was).
A toxic environment
Coincidentally, Dr. Lander faced some controversy during his confirmation process due to his two recorded meetings with Jeffrey Epstein, who was already well known as a sex offender at the time.
Lander, who was sworn into office by Kamala Harris , took his oath on a 1492 copy of a book of ancient Jewish ethical teachings. Lander claimed that the book of ethics reflected his “deepest values” but his employees at OSTP evidently wouldn’t be convinced.
Unfortunately for the White House, Lander’s unethical treatment of his subordinates is reportedly not an uncommon feature of this administration.
Staffers who have worked for Kamala Harris report that the vice president has created an intensely demoralizing and unpleasant work environment.
When an administration tries so hard to put a happy face on everything it does and keep anything offensive firmly at arm’s length, these scandals can build up quickly into a major image problem.
The White House may even struggle to find competent people to serve in crucial roles if prospective candidates come to believe that these are the conditions they may face.