Biden science adviser Dr. Eric Lander resigns after being criticized for mistreating staff

"The President accepted Dr. Eric Lander’s resignation letter this evening."

February 07, 2022, 10:08 PM

Following a day of heavy criticism, President Joe Biden’s top science adviser, Dr. Eric Lander, has resigned after an investigation into his mistreatment of staff.

"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 in a statement Monday night, referring to the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, which Lander led. "He knows that Dr. Lander will continue to make important contributions to the scientific community in the years ahead."

His resignation came after Politico reported Monday that a White House investigation concluded Lander had "bullied and demeaned his subordinates and violated the White House’s workplace policy."

In his letter to the president, Lander said that his resignation "is my fault and my responsiblity."

"I am devastated that I caused hurt to past and present colleagues by the way in which I have spoken to them," he wrote.

He cited "ambitious goals" as the driving force behind his demanding behavior.

"I have sought to push myself and my colleagues to reach our shared goals — including at times challenging and criticizing. But 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," he wrote. "That was never my intention. Nonetheless, it is my fault and my responsibility. I will take this lesson forward."

PHOTO: FILE - Dr. Eric Lander speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Jan. 16, 2021. Lander has resigned after the White House confirmed that an internal investigation found credible evidence that he mistreated his staff.
FILE - Dr. Eric Lander speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Jan. 16, 2021. Lander has resigned after the White House confirmed that an internal investigation found credible evidence that he mistreated his staff. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
Matt Slocum/AP

Psaki was asked about Lander several times during Monday's briefing.

She condemned his behavior and said an investigation had taken place. Senior White House officials told him his behavior was inappropriate and "corrective actions needed to be taken," she said.

"Nothing about his behavior is acceptable to anyone here -- at all," Psaki said at one point.

But the fact that Lander still had a job garnered special scrutiny because of a pledge Biden made on his first day in office.

"If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot -- on the spot," he said. "No ifs, ands, or buts -- everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That's been missing, in a big way, the last four years."

Lander said his resignation would be effective "no later than" Feb. 18 "in order to permit an orderly transfer."

ABC News' Justin Gomez and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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