Watchdog fnds GOP congressman harassed staff, drank while serving as White House physician

Watchdog fnds GOP congressman harassed staff, drank while serving as White House physician

The Department of Defense inspector general concluded in an unreleased report that Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, “disparaged” his subordinates, including pounding on the door of a woman who worked for him in the middle of the night during a presidential trip, and engaged in problematic drinking while working as the top White House physician.

The report, which was obtained by The New York Times, shed light on a number of rumors that had dogged Dr. Jackson beginning in 2018, after former President Donald Trump nominated him to lead the Veterans Affairs Department. After allegations emerged that Jackson had improperly distributed prescription drugs, created a hostile work environment and had problems with drinking, the White House withdrew his nomination.

Jackson went on to win a crowded Republican primary race to represent a district in northeastern Texas and was elected to Congress in 2020.

The 37-page report, first described by CNN, painted a picture of a physician who engaged in reckless and sometimes threatening behavior, creating an uncomfortable environment for subordinates. A majority of the 60 witnesses interviewed by investigators said that Jackson had created a negative work environment, and nearly all of them said they had either personally witnessed, experienced or heard from colleagues about Jackson “screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates.”

Investigators also found that Jackson engaged in inappropriate behavior on trips abroad with Trump and former President Barack Obama, whom he also served.

In 2014, ahead of a trip to Manila, Philippines, witnesses said that Jackson told a male subordinate that he thought a female medical professional they were working with had a nice figure, using colorful language, and that he would “like to see more of her tattoos.”

While in Manila, witnesses said that Jackson went out on the town for a night of drinking and 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. while “visibly intoxicated.” Witnesses said he created so much noise they worried it would wake Obama.

“He had kind of bloodshot eyes,” the woman recalled to 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.”

On a separate trip to Argentina with Trump, a witness recalled that Jackson “smelled of alcohol” as he assumed his duties as the primary physician on the trip and recalled that the doctor had a beer a few hours before going on duty, in defiance of a policy preventing White House medical personnel from drinking on presidential trips. Jackson had previously recounted to witnesses that he found that rule to be “stupid,” investigators found.

Former subordinates interviewed by investigators additionally raised the concern that Jackson took Ambien, a powerful sleep-aid medication, to help him sleep during long overseas travel. Though it appears Jackson never was called upon to provide medical care after he had taken the drug, his subordinates worried that it could have left him incapacitated and unable to perform his duties.

In a lengthy statement, Jackson accused the inspector general of resurrecting “false allegations” because “I have refused to turn my back on President Trump.”

“I flat out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty,” Jackson said. “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. That is not me and what is alleged did not happen.”

In a fact sheet also provided to reporters, Jackson’s office noted that Obama promoted him to rear admiral “after the alleged events” outlined in the report and that the then-president had profusely praised him for his work. [The New York Times]

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