As White House physician Ronny Jackson vows to continue with the battle to become the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, new allegations have surfaced outlining the extent to which Jackson may have behaved improperly as a presidential physician.
During an interview with CNN Tuesday evening, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) outlined some of the allegations he had learned while speaking with at least 20 current and former military members about Jackson. Tester is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, which postponed Jackson’s confirmation hearing — originally set for Wednesday — to review the mounting allegations against Jackson.
Tester told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Jackson was nicknamed the “‘candy man’ because he handed out prescription drugs like they were candy.”
“That’s not a nickname you want in a doctor and when you consider the prescription drugs we have a problem with in this country right now, it’s not the example we need to have set,” he said.
He said that he was told that most of the allegations about Jackson’s reported issues with drinking on the job were during former President Barack Obama’s administration, particularly during trips overseas. Tester said Jackson would drink in “social” situations while on trips, but that “there were comments” made about the drinking getting out of hand.
“There were comments about him being in the hotel room and he couldn’t respond because he had been drinking too much,” he said, and confirmed that someone else was asked to fill in. “If you’re drunk and something happens with the President, it’s very difficult to go in and treat the President how it needs to be done. So this is totally unacceptable under this environment and multiple people told us this was the case on several different trips.”
Later Tuesday evening, CNN reported that Jackson was so intoxicated during a 2015 trip overseas that he banged on the hotel room door of a female employee. According to four sources familiar with the incident who spoke with CNN, Jackson became so loud that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake Obama. Two additional sources who previously worked in the White House medial unit confirmed the incident to CNN, and said it happened in the middle of the night and made the female employee uncomfortable. On Wednesday, Tester confirmed on CNN that this allegation was among the testimonies the committee was reviewing.
The new allegations expand on recent reports that allege Jackson created a hostile working environment in the White House and had issues with excessive drinking on the job. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said Tuesday that it was going to delay Jackson’s confirmation hearing while it eyed the allegations. Tester and the committee chair, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent a letter to the White House Tuesday asking for documents related to Jackson and any records of allegations against him.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday afternoon that in 2012 the Navy’s medical inspector general suggested that the White House consider replacing Jackson and his colleague Dr. Jeffrey Kuhlman for “unprofessional behavior.”
The White House has stood behind Jackson and doubled down on its support of the embattled nominee on Tuesday evening. Trump has also maintained his support of Jackson, but told reporters that he “wouldn’t” stick it out if he were Jackson.