President Biden, despite a pledge to fire any appointee who treats colleagues with disrespect, isn’t firing his top science adviser after an internal White House investigation found that he bullied and demeaned subordinates.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that science adviser Eric Lander will keep his job after being warned to change his behavior.
“Senior White House officials conveyed directly to Dr. Lander that his behavior was inappropriate, and the corrective actions that were needed,” she said.
Ms. Psaki said the White House will “monitor” the president’s science adviser from now on.
Giving Mr. Lander a warning runs counter to the president’s promise immediately after his inauguration to fire any White House official “on the spot” if he or she treats colleagues with disrespect or talks down to others.
“On the spot,” the president vowed a year ago. “No ifs, ands or buts.”
A two-month internal investigation found that Mr. Lander, as head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, violated White House workplace policy by demeaning and belittling subordinates, particularly women, Ms. Psaki confirmed.
Asked repeatedly why the president retreated from his vow to fire such people, Ms. Psaki said the White House didn’t have a “process” in place a year ago for investigating complaints.
“Nothing about his behavior is acceptable to anyone here at all,” she said. “Quite the opposite. But there is now a process in place that was not in place at the time to evaluate and determine what the next steps should be taken in the event that any behavior like this occurs, to prevent it from happening in the future. That is exactly what happened in this case.”
Mr. Lander is leading the president’s initiative on finding a cure for cancer, an initiative that was rolled out last week. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain also said last month that Mr. Lander is the point person on specific boosters for COVID-19.
The Senate raised questions during the confirmation process for Mr. Lander last spring about reports that he had met with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. He was eventually confirmed on a voice vote.
Mr. Lander was accused of retaliating against staffers who questioned him and driving them out of his office in some cases.