Biden Cabinet Official Resigns After Leaked Reports of Staff Mistreatment

Eric Lander, President Joe Biden’s Cabinet-level science adviser, resigned Monday after reports leaked of his bullying and demeaning behavior towards his female subordinates.


Dr. Eric Lander, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, resigned Monday after a White House report finding he bullied and belittled staff and treated his coworkers with disrespect leaked to the media. Lander is the first Biden administration Cabinet-level official to leave his post.

  • The first-ever Cabinet-level science advisor oversaw Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative and was responsible for creating a new biomedical research agency. Lander was confirmed to his post after months of delays due to his connections to Jeffrey Epstein.
  • The internal investigation into the toxic work environment Lander created concluded in December but no action was taken until reports were leaked to Politico. Initially, the White House vowed to “monitor Lander’s conduct” and “move forward.”
  • On Monday, the White House had difficulty defending the decision to keep Lander on staff after their internal investigation. Biden had previously pledged a zero-tolerance policy for workplace misbehavior and to “fire you on the spot” if “you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone.”
  • Lander apologized for his behavior in his resignation letter Monday evening. Biden reportedly did not request Lander’s resignation.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Politico broke the Eric Lander story on Friday with its coverage of the mea culpa email he sent to his staff late Friday night apologizing for his conduct.
  • The Washington Post provided background detail on Lander’s portfolio, his scientific career, and the details of the internal investigation that led to his downfall.
  • The New York Times report on Lander’s resignation detail’s his history of mistreating women before he was named to Biden’s cabinet. The Times compares his departure to that of T. J. Ducklo, a former White House press aide. Ducklo’s use of “abusive and sexist language” with a female reporter led to his resignation in February 2021 only after media backlash.



  • The Wall Street Journal noted that the top Democrat and Republican members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee requested copies of the internal investigation into Lander’s conduct, implying they’re considering further investigations into Lander’s tenure.
  • The New York Post lambasted President Biden’s hypocrisy for not firing Lander even though Biden pledged to fire staffers guilty of mistreating their coworkers “on the spot.”
  • The Daily Mail rounded up the colorful details of the various reports on Lander’s crash landing including accusations of having a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality. More than half of his coworkers accused him of “causing deliberate public humiliation.”

Author’s Take

Most administrations have at least one unexpected high-profile departure in their first year, and sometimes more than one. Bill Clinton sacked FBI director William S. Sessions six months into his term and his first chief of staff lasted barely 18 months. Sessions’s successor at the FBI, Louis Freeh, resigned unexpectedly a few months into George W. Bush’s term in the wake of the Robert Hanssen spy scandal.

Barack Obama’s first White House Counsel Greg Craig – later to be indicted by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation – was forced out after barely a year for mishandling plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair quit after a stormy 16-month tenure. His Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag stepped down in June 2010 amid allegations of internal rivalries, leaking to the press and a messy love child story that became tabloid news fodder.

Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt resigned early on amid personal ethics scandals. Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2018 due to differences in “personal chemistry.” Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey fueled the Russiagate media narrative that affected his early years as president.

Although Lander is the first Biden Cabinet official to resign, that’s not necessarily a sign that all is well in Bidenland. Bureaucratic turf wars, Kamala Harris’s struggles and chief of staff Ron Klain’s strategic missteps have all earned the Biden administration negative coverage in recent weeks. Clinton’s first Secretary of Defense Les Aspin resigned after less than a year on the job over the Black Hawk Down debacle, yet no Biden administration officials lost their jobs after the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. Klain’s legislative strategy for Biden’s Build Back Better bill went bust and he still has his job.

Lander only quit after his abusive behavior leaked to the media. Its plausible Biden’s low turnover rate is a sign of stability. Or perhaps, as a recent Yahoo! News column put it, “Biden just won’t admit when he’s screwed up.”

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© Dominic Moore, 2022