‘Everybody Is Afraid’: Biden Opioid Office Run By ‘Prima Donna’ Who Has Staffers Running For The Exits, Report Alleges

The director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has created a “toxic” work environment and is too concerned with his public profile, according to several former and current officials who spoke with Politico.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, who runs the ONDCP, was described as a “prima donna” by former and current officials of the office and had led in large part to the resignation of eight top officials and many aides, according to Politico, which did not publicly identify the officials. Gupta was appointed to his position as director of the ONDCP in 2021 by President Joe Biden, and his office is charged with leading the fight against the opioid epidemic.

“The way he’s been treating people is like, completely the opposite of what Biden said he expects from his staff,” a person familiar with the office dynamic told Politico, referencing a threat Biden made on his first day in office that he would fire appointees that were disrespectful. “I think everybody is afraid because they’re afraid of retribution.”

The ONDCP officials alleged that Gupta has arranged trips for the purpose of raising his public appearance rather than work related to the office and has become upset when staff were not able to arrange meetings with high-ranking officials, according to Politico. Staff also say that he would request lavish accommodations, including canceling a trip because he did not want to fly on Southwest Airlines and requesting a larger hotel room after he had calculated the room was not big enough based on square footage.

“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,” an ONDCP official told Politico when asked about Gupta creating a toxic work environment.

Staff allege that Gupta’s preoccupation with his public image has resulted in widespread dysfunction in the office, resulting in the fight against the opioid epidemic falling to the wayside in terms of White House priorities. Through the dysfunction, Gupta has also failed to make key connections in the White House, such as with officials on the Domestic Policy Council, stifling the work at the office.

“I think he likes the perks of the job,” one 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 epidemic has continued to plague Americans, most recently in the form of synthetic opioids like fentanyl that took hold starting in 2013. Between 1999 and 2021, nearly 645,000 people have died from an overdose involving an opioid.

The White House and the ONDCP did not immediately respond to a request to comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Will Kessler on February 17, 2024

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