This Is the Highest-Profile Biden Administration Exit Yet

Top science adviser resigns
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2022 7:05 AM CST
Updated Feb 8, 2022 12:01 AM CST
Top Biden Science Adviser: 'Sorry for My Conduct'
A file photo of Eric Lander, the top science adviser to President Biden.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Update: President Biden's top science adviser resigned Monday after reports that he bullied staffers and created a toxic workplace environment. After Eric Lander's apologetic email to staff last week made headlines, the White House initially said corrective action would be taken at the Office of Science and Technology Policy while Lander remained in his post, but now Lander has decided to step down no later than Feb. 18, Politico reports, calling this the most high-profile Biden administration departure yet. Our original story from Sunday follows:

The president's top science adviser apparently likes to browbeat his staff. Politico reports that Cabinet member Eric Lander sent out an email to his 150 or so underlings on Friday in which he apologizes for speaking to them in a “disrespectful and demeaning way.” The email does not provide specific examples, but Politico notes that it is currently in the midst of an investigation into how Lander treats his staff. His apology—the Daily Beast describes it as "groveling"—appears to be an attempt to get out in front of the story.

"It's my responsibility to set a respectful tone for our community," wrote Lander. "It's clear that I have not lived up to this responsibility. This is not only wrong, but also inconsistent with our Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy. It is never acceptable for me to speak that way. I am deeply sorry for my conduct. I especially want to apologize to those of you who I treated poorly or were present at the time.” His boss, President Biden, promised on his first day in office that he would immediately fire anyone in his administration who treated colleagues with disrespect. "No ifs, ands, or buts."

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Lander is director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and his big project is heading Biden's "Cancer Moonshot." The goal is to cut the cancer death rate by 50% in 25 years. In an interview with NPR this week, Lander laid out some of the goals, including the formation of a "cancer cabinet" that he will lead. "The way you cure cancer is you cure it one bite at a time," he says. "It's 200 diseases, and there's enormous progress." (Biden elevated the post of science adviser to a Cabinet-level position.)

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