Politics

Pentagon watchdog says former White House physician bullied staff and drank recklessly on official trips

Congressman Ronny Jackson, formerly the White House physician to Presidents Obama and Trump, “disparaged” subordinates and drank recklessly while traveling with the president, according to a new report released by the Pentagon on Wednesday. Jackson, a rear admiral, was initially chosen by Mr. Trump to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs — but his name was pulled following reports about his behavior while he was in the role.  

Wednesday’s report detailed inappropriate conduct involving alcohol in two incidents and said he had fostered a negative work environment. The Department of Defense Inspector General initiated the investigation into Jackson in May 2018, and interviewed 78 witnesses about Jackson’s conduct in the White House Medical Unit for the report.

Jackson, who now represents Texas’ 13th Congressional District, said in a statement that the report was politically motivated because he stood with Mr. Trump. He said he takes his “professional responsibility with respect to prescription drug practices seriously,” adding, “I flat out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty.” 

“I also categorically deny any implication that I was in any way sexually inappropriate at work, outside of work, or anywhere with any member of my staff or anyone else,” Jackson said. “That is not me and what is alleged did not happen.”

The report states that the two incidents involving the inappropriate use of alcohol occurred during presidential trips while Jackson was in charge of providing medical care and treatment to U.S. officials.

During a presidential trip to Manila in 2014, Jackson is accused of making inappropriate comments about the anatomy of a female subordinate and knocking on her hotel room door while drunk in the middle of the night saying “I need you.”  When another subordinate walked by to ask what he was doing, Jackson allegedly led both subordinates to his room to take photos of himself eating a local street food.

The female subordinate said Jackson’s conduct was “frat boy-type behavior,” according to the report. When asked what she thought when he allegedly said, “I need you” outside her door, she said a Naval officer in Jackson’s position “should not be knocking on my door drunk in the middle of the night telling me he ‘needs’ me no matter what he needs me for.”

The investigation’s report said that Jackson used Ambien during long official flights, and that witnesses raised concerns about Jackson’s potential inability to provide proper medical care.

The report concluded that Jackson’s overall conduct toward subordinates “disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated them.” Witnesses allegedly told investigators Jackson called subordinates names like “idiots,” “lazy f**kers,” and “motherf**kers.” Only four out of 60 of his former subordinates said they did not experience, see or hear Jackson yelling, screaming, cursing or belittling subordinates, the report said.

After Jackson ended his service as physician to the president in 2018, Mr. Trump nominated him to be Veteran Affairs Secretary. Reports of his conduct as the physician led to the withdrawal of his nomination. Jackson retired from the Navy in 2019, and won an open U.S. House of Representatives seat in Texas in 2020 after Congressman Mac Thornberry’s retirement.

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