The main Democrat and the main Republican on the panel expressed concern over Lander’s nomination due to his interactions with Epstein, POLITICO reported, while other lawmakers questioned his past treatment of his fellow scientists and his embrace from a reputable biologist accused of espousing racist and sexist views.
“The Epstein connection is of great concern to us,” Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) Said during Thursday’s hearing.
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), The first Thai American woman elected to Congress, said she was “troubled” by these incidents, as well as by claims that Lander downplayed the role of women scientists in development of revolutionary genetic technology.
“Ultimately, if you are confirmed, you will have the power to promote the representation of women and minorities in STEM fields, so I strongly encourage you to use this hearing as an opportunity to explain how you learned from your past mistakes ”. Duckworth said.
Lander admitted on Thursday that he “underestimated” the work of two women scientists, 2020 Nobel Laureates Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, in a 2016 article on the “pioneers” behind CRISPR gene editing technology. .
“I made a mistake, and when I make a mistake, I own it and try to do better,” he said in response to questions from Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.).
Controversies threaten Lander’s confirmation of being the director of the OSTP, a role Biden is elevating to Cabinet level for the first time. Lander is the only cabinet candidate that has yet to be confirmed.
A striking contrast: Controversy over Lander’s treatment of race and gender issues comes as the Biden administration lobbied to promote equity in the United States and promote diversity in the ranks of the federal government one of its main priorities.
Lawmakers had asked Biden to appoint a woman or person of color to the post of director of the OSTP and other high-level scientific positions in the executive branch, given that these demographics were traditionally under-represented in these positions and in STEM fields more broadly.
In January, a nonprofit called 500 Women Scientists that advocates for the diversification of STEM fields wrote an open letter opposing Lander’s appointment, which they said showed “the glass ceiling of science American remains intact ”.
The group applauded the efforts of the Biden administration to strengthen diversity within the federal office, but said the Lander’s choice “fails to hold up the moment” and “exemplifies the status quo.”