Politico seems intent on scandalizing a workplace dispute between White House professional staff and a cabinet-level political appointee, which according to the outlet’s own reporting has already been brought to resolution. The outlet seems to be straining to tar President Joe Biden with scandal, having published a story Monday about allegedly abusive workplace behavior by professor Eric Lander, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. (This was the second piece published on the topic by Politico in the past week.) According to the latest reporting, an internal investigation found “credible evidence of violations” of the administration’s workplace policy by Lander, including bullying of both men and women, but which appears to have had a particularly significant impact on women working in the office.
The inappropriate behavior and investigation clearly merit reporting, but Politico has chosen to frame the story as a major personal failure of Biden’s. Both articles about Lander include mention of a comment Biden made early in his presidency that abusive behavior would not be tolerated from his staff at any level. Politico also gave its most recent story top billing in Monday’s Playbook newsletter, calling out purported hypocrisy on the part of Biden for not firing Lander “on the spot.”
SCOOP — Alex Thompson has a must-read piece uncovering an internal White House investigation documenting a toxic work environment described by 14 current and former staffers who worked under ERIC LANDER, President JOE BIDEN’s top science adviser, who they say bullied and demeaned subordinates. “The behavior,” Thompson writes, “is at odds with Biden’s Day-1 warning to his political appointees that anyone who disrespected their colleagues would be fired ‘On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts.’”
To be clear, Lander’s behavior appears to have been a real problem. But, according to Politico’s own reporting, the White House itself has done an international investigation, which thus far has resulted in Lander issuing an apology letter.
The key point here is that Politico’s article separated Biden’s promise a year ago from its crucial context: Biden pledged to have a better workplace environment precisely because the Trump White House had been described by insiders as “the most toxic working environment on the planet.” (Multiple Trump staffers also resigned after reports of domestic violence, for which reports still continue to surface — and of course, over two-dozen women have reported sexual assault or misconduct by President Donald Trump himself.)
Meanwhile, the outlet appears to be showing surprisingly little interest in a story that it first broke back in 2018, and which is now attracting renewed media interest: Trump’s routine habit of destroying official papers, requiring work by government employees to salvage and tape them back together. Trump’s proclivity to destroy correspondence, notes, and other official documents after handling them wasn’t just a quirk or oddity; it was a crime – an explicit violation of the Presidential Records Act.
That story has become relevant again, now that the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is receiving taped-up papers from the National Archives, indicating that the Trump administration continued this habit when it came to potential evidence of a conspiracy to overthrow American democracy. (And as many others are observing, this whole story further illustrates the hypocrisy of both the Trump campaign and media in 2016, for the relentless coverage of Hillary Clinton’s email server — a problem that was obvious for years.)