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Top Biden Adviser Admits He Spoke to Staff in ‘Disrespectful or Demeaning Way’ and Apologizes

Top Biden Adviser Admits He Spoke to Staff in 'Disrespectful or Demeaning Way' and Apologizes

President Joe Biden‘s top science adviser, Dr. Eric Lander, has apologized to staff for speaking to colleagues in a “disrespectful or demeaning way.”

“I am deeply sorry for my conduct,” Lander, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), wrote in an email to staff on Friday. “I especially want to apologize to those of you who I treated poorly, or were present at the time.”

In the email, which was obtained by PEOPLE, Lander writes that his behavior “is not only wrong, but also inconsistent with our Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy.”

Lander’s apology follows an internal investigation, which an OSTP spokesperson confirms was undertaken last year after a complaint was filed under presidential policy.

The investigation found “credible evidence of violations,” the spokesperson tells PEOPLE, adding that “corrective action was taken consistent with those findings.”

News of the inquiry was first reported by Politico, which obtained recorded audio of a briefing on its findings.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden
| Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

Lander met with senior White House leaders to discuss the seriousness of the matter as well as the president’s expectations on respectful workplace behavior, the OSTP spokesperson says, adding that action was taken to ensure that all staff “are supported and aware” of how to report violations of the policy.

“The White House is committed to maintaining a safe and respectful work environment in which employees can focus their time and energy on working for the American people,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement. “The President put in place a first-of-its-kind Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy to maintain a healthy work environment, and has been clear that conduct that is inconsistent with that policy will not be tolerated, and will be addressed appropriately. We take this incredibly seriously and we are taking swift action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

The OSTP advises President Joe Biden and others in his executive office on scientific, engineering and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations and the environment, according to the White House’s description of the office, which is leading the reignited “Cancer Moonshot” announced by the president, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week.

Upon taking office, President Biden, 79, drew a symbolic contrast with the previous administration, which was infamously rife with backbiting, leaks and internal dysfunction that spilled into public view.

Eric Lander

Eric Lander
Credit: Brian Ach/Getty

Biden told his new White House appointees in January 2021 that he expected them to behave with civility and in ways that were consistent with his calls for national unity. “I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me, and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot,” Biden said from the White House at the time. “No if, ands or buts.”

“It’s my responsibility to set a respectful tone for our community. It’s clear that I have not lived up to this responsibility,” Lander wrote in his email on Friday.

“I also realize that my conduct reflects poorly on this Administration, and interferes with our work. I deeply regret that,” he continued. “OSTP is an amazing organization with amazing people taking on big, ambitious things. You deserve better, and I will do better. You have my absolute commitment.”

Lander is not the first aide whose conduct has led to consequences: A White House spokesman resigned last year after it came to light that he had attacked and demeaned a reporter because she was working on a story about his relationship with another journalist.