White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t say whether President Joe Biden planned to fire top science advisor Dr. Eric Lander — despite an investigation that revealed he had routinely demeaned staffers — after promising to “fire on the spot” anyone in his administration who did not treat others with respect.
“Does the fact that Dr. Lander has a job still cheapen the President’s promise to fire anyone who treats colleagues with disrespect on the spot?” Fox News White House Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich asked.
.@JacquiHeinrich: "Does the fact that Dr. Lander has a job still cheapen the President's promise to fire anyone who treats colleagues with disrespect on the spot?"
Psaki refuses to say that he will be fired. pic.twitter.com/OOPD4q6WW3
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 7, 2022
“Well, again, I would just reiterate that the president takes his commitment to having a respectful work environment incredibly seriously, and it’s something that he conveys clearly to all of us on a regular basis,” Psaki replied. “That is why we put in place, in part, put in place a safe and respectful workplace policy, which is how — which is the process through which this is — this thorough investigation proceeded through, and the process through which, again, that there was an internal investigation. Dr. Lander obviously, his behavior was inappropriate, corrective actions needed to be taken, and that was clearly conveyed through this process. And he will be held to account for — for delivering on that.”
Shortly after Biden took office, however, he promised — as Heinrich noted — to “fire on the spot” anyone in his administration who did not treat others with respect.
As The Daily Wire reported:
In one of his first public addresses after taking office, Biden promised to fire “on the spot” anyone caught “treat[ing] another colleague with disrespect” or “talk[ing] down to someone.” No such action has been taken against Lander.
The White House and OSTP acknowledged Lander violations of White House policies in separate statements. The White House said Lander met with other top White House officials over the actions. OSTP said that “corrective action was taken.”
According to the recording of Peele, Lander will be forced to conduct collaborative meetings with his staff and will be subject to review between 30 and 45 days to ensure he is abiding by White House rules.
.@PressSec Jen Psaki on science adviser & @WHOSTP Director Dr. Eric Lander: "Following the conclusion of the thorough investigation into these actions, senior White House officials conveyed directly to Dr. Lander that his behavior was inappropriate…" pic.twitter.com/4JrUde6DCl
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 7, 2022
The position Dr. Lander holds — head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) — was not previously a Cabinet-level position, but President Biden elevated it and chose Lander to help drive his latest initiative to find a cure for cancer: Cancer Moonshot.
Lander also came to the Biden administration with a reputation for being, at best, difficult to work with. “In particular, detractors cited a handful of incidents from Lander’s past: His toast of James Watson, who has expressed racist and misogynistic sentiments; his perceived slight of two women researchers who helped develop the gene-editing technology CRISPR; and his broader penchant for soaking up the scientific limelight and the funding that accompanies it,” Stat News reported.
The investigation into the allegations against Lander carried on for two months and “found credible evidence of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff.”
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