Jackson Withdraws as VA Nominee 04/26 07:25
WASHINGTON (AP) -- White House doctor Ronny Jackson withdrew from
consideration as Veterans Affairs secretary on Thursday, saying "false
allegations" against him have become a distraction.
In a statement the White House issued from Jackson, he said he "did not
expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and
Shortly after Jackson dropped out, President Donald Trump called into the
Fox & Friends morning show to praise Jackson as an "incredible man" who "runs a
Trump said Jackson had a "beautiful record" and that there was no proof of
the allegations. Added Trump, "I think Jon Tester has a big price to pay." The
president declined to say who he may nominate next.
Jackson faced a series of accusations about his workplace conduct. The
latest blow to his nomination to lead the government's second-largest Cabinet
agency came Wednesday with a set of accusations compiled by Democratic staff on
the committee considering his nomination.
Based on conversations with 23 of Jackson's current and former colleagues at
the White House Medical Unit, the summary said Jackson exhibited a pattern of
recklessly prescribing drugs and drunken behavior, including crashing a
government vehicle while intoxicated and doling out such a large supply of a
prescription opioid that staffers panicked because they thought the drugs were
In just a matter of days, the allegations transformed Jackson's reputation
as a celebrated doctor attending the president to an embattled nominee accused
of drinking on the job and over-prescribing drugs. He was seen pacing back and
forth on the White House grounds Wednesday.
Jackson huddled late Wednesday evening with top White House press staff.
They declined to comment on the situation.
A former colleague who spoke to The Associated Press described Jackson as a
gregarious, Type A charmer who knew how to position himself for success ---
attentive to bosses but also causing unnecessary grief and consternation among
He said Jackson became known as "Candyman" because of the way he handed out
drugs. The ex-colleague spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of
The "Candyman" nickname was also cited in the summary released by the
In a section on Jackson's prescribing practices, the summary said that in
one case, missing Percocet tabs threw members of the White House Medical Unit
into a panic --- but it turned out he had prescribed a "large supply" of the
opioid to a White House Military Office staffer.
The allegations also referred to multiple incidents of Jackson's
intoxication while on duty, often on overseas trips. On at least one occasion
he was nowhere to be found when his medical help was needed because "he was
passed out drunk in his hotel room," according to the summary.
At a Secret Service going-away party, the summary says, Jackson got drunk
and wrecked a government vehicle.
Jackson has denied allegations of bad behavior.
"I never wrecked a car," he said. "I have no idea where that is coming from."
Reports of overprescribing and alcohol-related behavior problems can
jeopardize a doctor's license. Many state medical boards allow doctors to keep
their licenses and return to practice if they complete special treatment
programs and submit to random urine screens.
The allegations were publicly released on the day that Jackson's
confirmation hearing was to have been held. The hearing was postponed
indefinitely while the allegations against him are reviewed.
"He treated the people above him very, very well. He treated the people
below him very, very poorly," Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told the AP. "It's not surprising the people
above him think he was doing a really, really good job."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that
Jackson had passed "at least four independent background checks" that found "no
areas of concern."
"He has received more vetting than most nominees," she said.
Marc Short, the White House legislative director, could not say he was
confident the allegations were false. He was "not familiar" with car wreck
But Short also suggested Tester was airing the allegations for political
"It's quite unusual for a United States senator to take allegations that
have not been fully investigated, but to flaunt them to the national public to
suggest he's the 'candyman' I think is outrageous," Short said.
Tester, speaking on MSNBC, acknowledged that not all the allegations had
"Am I 100% rock solid sure that he did this? No," Tester said. "But I've
seen a pattern here that continues on and on and on."
Veterans groups are dismayed over the continuing uncertainty at the VA,
already beset by infighting over improvements to veterans care.
"The American Legion is very concerned about the current lack of permanent
leadership," said Denise Rohan, national commander of The American Legion, the
nation's largest veterans organization.
A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by the AP found that
Jackson and a rival physician exhibited "unprofessional behaviors" as they
engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit.
That report by the Navy's Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in
the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working
environment as "being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce."
It included no references to improper prescribing of drugs or the use of
alcohol, as alleged in the summary compiled by the Senate Democratic staff
The White House has released handwritten reports from Trump and former
President Barack Obama praising Jackson's leadership and medical care and
recommending him for promotion.
Trump's first VA secretary, David Shulkin, was dismissed after an ethics
scandal and mounting rebellion within the agency. But Jackson has faced
numerous questions from lawmakers and veterans groups about whether he has the
experience to manage the department of 360,000 employees serving 9 million