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Ex-White House doctor made sexist comments, drank, took sleeping pills on duty, report says

Ronny Jackson speaks to reporters during a press briefing
Then-White House physician Ronny Jackson speaks to reporters during a press briefing at the White House in January 2018.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

The Department of Defense inspector general released a scathing report Wednesday on the conduct of Ronny Jackson, now a congressman from Texas, when he worked as a top White House physician.

The internal investigation concluded that Jackson made “sexual and denigrating” comments about a female subordinate, violated the policy on drinking alcohol on a presidential trip and took prescription-strength sleeping medication that prompted worries from his colleagues about his ability to provide proper medical care.

The years-long investigation into Jackson, who was elected to the House in November, examined allegations into his conduct during his time serving the administrations of both Presidents Obama and Trump.

Jackson, who gained notoriety for his over-the-top pronouncements about Trump’s health, denied the allegations, and declared that he was the victim of a “political hit job” because of his close ties to the former Republican president.

After interviewing 78 witnesses and reviewing a host of White House documents, investigators concluded that Jackson, who achieved the rank of rear admiral, failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect. They also highlighted incidents of inappropriate behavior on at least two international presidential trips.

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President Trump’s pick for Veterans Affairs secretary showed “a pattern” of questionable prescription drug practices and drunken behavior, including crashing a government vehicle while intoxicated and doling out a large supply of a prescription opioid to a White House military staff member, according to a summary of allegations compiled by Democrats.

The report also said the investigation into Jackson “was limited in scope and unproductive” as Trump’s White House counsel insisted on being present at all interviews, which had a “potential chilling effect” on the probe.

The Pentagon report, in part, focused on a trip by Obama to the Philippines in 2014. Before the trip, witnesses said, Jackson told a male colleague that he thought a female medical professional they were working with was attractive and, using inappropriate language, indicated that he would “like to see more of her tattoos.”

While in Manila, witnesses said, a “visibly intoxicated” Jackson came back to the hotel where the medical team was staying and began yelling and pounding on the female subordinate’s hotel room door between 1 and 2 a.m.

Witnesses said he created so much noise they worried it would wake Obama.

“He had kind of bloodshot eyes,” the woman told investigators. “You could smell the alcohol on his breath, and he leaned into my room and he said, ‘I need you.’ I felt really uncomfortable.”

The Department of Defense investigation, which was first reported by CNN, also found that Jackson violated the medical unit’s alcohol policy on a trip to Argentina. And witnesses said Jackson took sleep medication on long overseas travel, which left subordinates worried that it could have left him incapacitated and unable to work.

Rumors about his conduct began in 2018, when Trump nominated Jackson to lead the Veterans Affairs Department. After allegations emerged that Jackson had created a hostile work environment and improperly distributed prescription drugs, the White House withdrew the nomination.

Jackson then used claims that he was unfairly targeted — and then benefitted from Trump’s endorsement — to fuel a victory in a crowded GOP primary race to represent a district in northeastern Texas. He then easily won the seat in November.

Jackson denied all of the allegations about his conduct and said Wednesday in a statement, “My entire professional life has been defined by duty and service.”

“I have not and will not ever conduct myself in a way that undermines the sincerity with which I take my oath to my country or my constituents,” Jackson said.

Jackson was well liked by most members of the Obama and Trump staffs and grew close to both presidents. He drew national attention and became the subject of late-night comedians’ jokes in early 2018 when he declared that Trump “has incredibly good genes, and it’s just the way God made him.”

“I told the president that if he had a healthier diet over the last 20 years he might live to be 200 years old,” Jackson said then.


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