Joe Biden’s Cabinet pick for science adviser has been delayed by Democrat concerns of connections to paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, according to reports.
The nomination of Eric Lander to director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy was reportedly paused due to questions around two meetings the geneticist had with Epstein in 2012, four years after the financier’s conviction on child prostitution.
Quoting an anonymous official familiar with the situation, Politico reported that Washington senator Maria Cantwell wanted more clarity on the extent of Mr Lander’s connections with Epstein.
While Ms Cantwell did not immediately respond to a request for comment, she told the outlet “we’ll see what happens with that”, regarding the hearing on Mr Lander’s nomination next week.
Mr Lander was first identified in a 2019 BuzzFeed News investigation as among a group of scientists and professors who met with Epstein in the office of Harvard biologist Martin Nowak.
Photos from one of the meetings, posted to jeffreyepsteinblog.com, show Mr Lander and Epstein talking at the meeting, which Mr Lander described to BuzzFeed News as an informal sandwich lunch to discuss science with “various people”.
“Martin didn’t mention who’d be attending. I had not met Epstein before, didn’t know much about him, and learned that he was a major donor to Martin’s institute,” Mr Lander told BuzzFeed in an email.
“I later learned about his more sordid history,” Lander added. “I’ve had no relationship with Epstein.”
The Independent has contacted Mr Lander for comment.
The White House confirmed in a statement to Politico on Wednesday that Mr Lander, along with other Harvard officials, met Epstein at two events in the Spring of 2012, and “correctly decided to have nothing to do with Epstein”.
“As has been previously reported, neither Dr Lander nor the Broad [Institute] solicited nor received any funding support from Epstein or his foundations, nor did he or the Broad have any relationship with Epstein,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Lander is currently the director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and previously served as a scientific adviser in the Obama administration.
He spoke about his nomination as White House science adviser to then-president-elect Joe Biden on 15 January, but his hearing won’t come before the Senate until almost three months later on 29 April.
“Tremendously excited to work alongside so many bright minds to advise the President-elect and push the boundaries of what we dare to believe is possible,” Mr Lander said in a tweet. “#ScienceIsBack.”