Staff Allege Toxic Work Environment at Biden Advance Office: Report

President Biden Welcomes Governors To The White House During The National Governors Association Winter Meeting
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March 12, 2024

Staffers at President Joe Biden’s advance office face a toxic work environment, according to more than a dozen individuals who spoke to Politico.

The advance office, responsible for preparing and coordinating the president’s public appearances, saw its associate director Ian Mellul resign on March 1 following a months-long investigation by the White House Counsel’s Office into complaints of verbal harassment. Mellul told employees who made mistakes that he would "ruin [their lives]" and often called junior staffers "worthless" and "pieces of shit," several people familiar with the situation alleged during interviews with Politico.  

"There’s a right and a wrong way to treat people in any business," a former advance associate said of Mellul’s alleged verbal abuse. "You’re just not putting your best face forward for anybody if you’re just lashing out at people, barking commands, not treating people with respect, not treating people with dignity."

Brie Moore, Biden’s former director of press advance, also recently resigned after multiple journalists and correspondents assigned to the White House complained about her repeated failure to accommodate the press and communicate travel plans, sources familiar with the complaints told Politico

Six current and former Biden staffers blamed the toxic work environment on Ryan Montoya, the director of scheduling and advance and an assistant to the president. "Ryan Montoya is the head of the department who I think everyone would blame for this whole issue. People went to Ryan many times and Ryan would just laugh it off and ignore it," a former White House official said. 

Montoya has also been accused of verbally abusing staffers and aides, Politico reported. "It’s upsetting because it’s not good for the president and the whole dignity thing is selective," another former staffer said of Montoya’s behavior. Unlike Mellul, however, Montoya has remained unscathed due to his good relationship with Anthony Bernal, adviser to first lady Jill Biden, and deputy chief of staff Annie Tomasini, according to some of the staffers who worked with Montoya.

In response to the allegations of a toxic work environment, Biden’s deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said the president is "deeply proud of his advance staff" and "grateful to everyone who has served and is serving on an unmatched team that represents the diversity of the country as they have fought every day to help him bring his message to the American people and the entire world."

Vice President Kamala Harris faced similar allegations of a toxic work environment after former employees characterized the office under her leadership as traumatic. One former staffer depicted Harris as an unpredictable boss prone to unleashing "a lot of verbal abuse," while another said there was "a sense of paranoia in that office that you never knew when she was going to snap at you."

Published under: Joe Biden , White House