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White House: Top scientist abused staff and apologizes

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A White House review has found credible evidence that top scientist Dr. Eric Lander violated its “safe and respectful work policy,” but the administration plans to keep him on the job after telling him give advice.

An internal review last year, prompted by a workplace complaint, found evidence that Lander, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and science adviser to President Joe Biden, was bullying staffers and treated disrespectfully. This put him at odds with Biden’s day one directive that he expected “honesty and decency” from everyone who worked for his administration and would fire anyone who disrespected others “on the spot.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said senior administration officials have met with Lander about his actions and the running of the office.

“Following the conclusion of the thorough investigation into these actions, senior White House officials communicated directly to Dr. Lander that his behavior was inappropriate, and the corrective action that was necessary, which the White House will monitor. compliance going forward,” she said. .

PSAki added, “The President has been very clear with all of us about his high expectations for how he and his staff should create a respectful work environment.”

The White House said Lander and OSTP are required to take certain corrective actions as part of the review. He also said the review did not find “credible evidence” of gender discrimination and that the reassignment of the staff member who made the original complaint was “deemed appropriate”.

On Friday, Lander issued an apology to staff members in his office, acknowledging, “I spoke to colleagues at OSTP in a disrespectful or demeaning manner.”

“I am deeply sorry for my conduct,” he added. “I especially want to apologize to those of you whom I treated poorly or who were present at the time.”

The letter and findings against Lander were first reported by Politico.

Lander, whose position was elevated to Cabinet by Biden, appeared prominently with the President last week when he relaunched his “Cancer Moonshot” program to mobilize federal resources behind disease research and treatment. cancerous.

Founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Lander is a mathematician and molecular biologist. He was the main author of the first article announcing the details of the human genome, the so-called “book of life”.

His confirmation of his role in the Biden administration has been delayed for months as senators seek more information about meetings he had with the late Jeffrey Epstein, a disgraced financier who was accused of sex trafficking before. his suicide. Lander has also been criticized for downplaying the contributions of two Nobel Prize-winning women scientists.

During his confirmation hearing last year, Lander apologized for a 2016 paper he wrote that downplayed the work of women scientists. During the hearing, he also called Epstein “a heinous individual”.

Lander said he “underestimates the importance of these key advances” by biochemists Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. Both were later awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.