White House Counsel’s Office knew about bullying, harassment, and retaliation allegations for a year
WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Subcommittee on the Environment Ranking Member Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) today questioned the White House’s failure to immediately fire Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Eric Lander when confronted by well-documented allegations against him for over a year. In a letter to Dana Remus, Counsel to the President, the Republican lawmakers call for all reports, documents, and communications related to the allegations made against Dr. Lander and if the White House Counsel’s Office has communicated to employees about whistleblower protections.
“While media reporting indicates Director Lander’s resignation was the result of ‘an internal White House investigation,’ Committee Republicans have received information indicating the White House Counsel’s Office (WHCO) was notified of his behavior even prior to his confirmation in May 2021. Why the White House continued to allow Director Lander and OSTP leadership to run OSTP in this manner for over a year raises serious questions,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
Media reports and Oversight Committee Republicans’ investigation show OSTP is a toxic work environment where staff fear meeting or even talking to OSTP leadership for fear of humiliation, demotion, and retaliation. Director Lander began working at OSTP shortly after President Biden’s inauguration in January 2021 and the next month, OSTP employees raised concerns about his abusive behavior to WHCO. By mid-June 2021, WHCO had been notified of multiple employees raising concerns about Director Lander. At that time, no action was taken to rebuke or remove him.
“Despite the President’s pledge of zero tolerance for employee abuse, no one in WHCO or the White House appears to have taken any action when information was provided to them about these allegations,” continued the Republican lawmakers. “The toxic work environment OSTP leadership perpetuated—where employees are bullied, belittled, harassed, and retaliated against—and then seemingly excused by the White House casts serious doubts about President Biden’s pledge … The White House’s failure to fire Director Lander when confronted with well-documented allegations against him for over a year—let alone ‘on the spot’—indicates a severe problem not confined to OSTP. We remind you that retaliation against whistleblowers may constitute violations of law that carry penalties.”
The letter can be found here.