Why Neera Tanden, Biden’s new pick for a top economic role, has been called a terrible leader and ‘impossible to trust’ by some of her former colleagues

CAP President Neera Tanden moderates the ‘Why Women’s Economic Security Matters For All’ panel discussion at The Centre For American Progress in 2014 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi/Getty Images
  • President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Tanden, the chief executive of the Centre for American Progress, has been criticised for her leadership style.
  • A former colleague who worked for Tanden said on Twitter on Monday that she was a “very bad organizational leader.” He accused her of lacking “leadership and moral courage.”
  • In 2018, colleagues of Tanden said she was “impossible to trust” after she named a victim of sexual harassment in a company meeting, BuzzFeed reported at the time.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced Monday it had nominated Neera Tanden to be head the Office of Management and Budget in the Biden administration.

This would make Tanden, the president and CEO of the liberal think tank Centre for American Progress, the first woman of colour to oversee the OMB.

In recent years, some employees at CAP have heavily criticised Tanden for her leadership style.

Ali Gharib, a journalist at The Intercept, was a writer for a CAP Action Fund project called ThinkProgress when Tanden was his boss, he wrote on Twitter Monday. He accused Tanden of being a “very bad organizational leader” who censored his work.

He said he did not think Tanden was “evil,” but that she lacked “leadership and moral courage.”

This isn’t the first time Tanden’s colleagues have raised concerns about her.

In April 2018, BuzzFeed News published a bombshell investigation unveiling the CAP’s apparent failure to address allegations of sexual harassment in the organisation. A memo by the CAP’s employee union said while CAP “eventually took appropriate course of action,” management “failed to adequately address the situation.”

In a meeting with CAP staff two days after these revelations, BuzzFeed reported that Tanden named the anonymous victim at the centre of the sexual-harassment allegations. The woman, identified as Mary by BuzzFeed, reported several unwanted sexual text messages from a male colleague to CAP, but the organisation never contacted her back.

After a BuzzFeed reporter tweeted the story, Tanden emailed Mary to apologise, the publication later reported.

One CAP employee who was in the meeting told BuzzFeed News: “There is literally one thing you cannot do in this meeting and that is out the victim and Neera did it multiple times … It also destroys whatever small level of confidence in the system remained.”

They added: “As a manager I don’t know how I can tell staff to trust the system when the head of the organisation just outed the victim in front of the entire organisation. It is impossible to trust her.”

Another CAP employee who was present in the meeting told BuzzFeed: “Neera lost the organisation today. There was so much angst in that room. She outed the victim, and the subtext of every question was a lack of confidence in her leadership and ability to create trust within the organisation.”

In a statement to BuzzFeed at the time, a CAP spokesperson said that Tanden “unintentionally said the complainant’s first name in the meeting today, and immediately and profusely apologised for it.”

“She feels awful that it happened and that the victim’s negative experience was compounded; she also expressed that the victim’s actions in coming forward were courageous. Neera’s horror was very evident in the meeting,” the spokesperson said.

In 2008, when she was a top aide on Hilary Clinton’s first presidential campaign, Tanden reportedly punched the chief editor of ThinkProgress in the chest after he asked a question to Clinton about the Iraq war, The New York Times said.

“I didn’t slug him, I pushed him,” Tanden said in an interview following the incident, The Times said.

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Meanwhile, Republicans have also been voicing their doubts about Tanden’s nomination and said she would struggle to win over the Senate.

Josh Holmes, an advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, suggested on Twitter that Biden didn’t expect her to be confirmed — she was merely a “sacrifice to the confirmation gods.”

Business Insider has contacted Tanden, CAP, and the Biden transition team for comment. Gharib did not respond to our request for further details.