Claims Of Toxic Work Environment And Self-Promotion Rock White House Drug Control Office

By Lisa Pelgin | Sunday, 18 February 2024 09:20 PM
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Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), has been accused of creating a hostile work environment and prioritizing his public image over his duties, according to anonymous sources cited by Politico.

These allegations have reportedly led to the resignation of eight senior officials and numerous aides.

Gupta, who was appointed by President Joe Biden in 2021 to lead the fight against the opioid crisis, has been described as a "prima donna" by both former and current officials. "The way he's been treating people is like, completely the opposite of what Biden said he expects from his staff," an insider told Politico. This comment refers to Biden's warning on his first day in office that he would not tolerate disrespectful behavior from his appointees. The source added, "I think everybody is afraid because they're afraid of retribution."

The ONDCP officials claim that Gupta has been organizing trips to boost his public profile rather than to fulfill office-related responsibilities. They also allege that he has shown dissatisfaction when staff were unable to arrange meetings with high-ranking officials. According to Politico, Gupta has been known to demand luxurious accommodations, such as refusing to fly Southwest Airlines and requesting larger hotel rooms based on square footage calculations.

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In response to these allegations, an ONDCP official told Politico, "Dr. Gupta remains laser-focused on the office’s work to strengthen life-saving public health services, prevent illicit drugs from reaching our communities, and meeting with Americans across the country to strengthen our whole-of-society response."

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However, staff members argue that Gupta's obsession with his public image has led to widespread dysfunction within the office. This has reportedly resulted in the fight against the opioid epidemic being sidelined in terms of White House priorities. Gupta's alleged behavior has also hindered the establishment of crucial connections within the White House, such as with officials on the Domestic Policy Council, thereby impeding the office's work.

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"I think he likes the perks of the job," a former official told Politico. "I think he likes the title, the ability to travel. But I don’t know that he likes the work that’s required to make it a very relevant place."

The opioid crisis remains a significant issue in the United States, with synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl causing widespread harm since 2013. From 1999 to 2021, nearly 645,000 people have died from an opioid-related overdose.

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