White House physician Ronny Jackson withdrew as the nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday amid mounting scrutiny of his past behavior.
In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Jackson denied the allegations about his conduct but said that the attention created a “distraction.”
“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated. If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this President and the important issue we must be addressing – how we give the best care to our nation’s heroes.”
Jackson’s withdrawal as the VA nominee followed new allegations surfaced by Democrats on Wednesday afternoon. A report from Democrats in Congress included allegations that Jackson was prone to excessive drinking, crashed a government vehicle while drunk, prescribed medication without knowledge of patients’ medical history and mistreated his employees. Before the new report surfaced Wednesday, he was already facing allegations of drinking on the job and doling out prescription medications “like they were candy.”
In his Thursday morning statement, Jackson said he did not expect such scrutiny.
“Going into this process, I expected tough questions about how to best care for our veterans, but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity,” he said. “In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.”
Up until Jackson’s withdrawal on Thursday morning, the White House defended its choice to lead the VA. Wednesday morning, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley touted Jackson’s credentials in a statement defending the nominee. On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the administration’s background investigation of Jackson, insisting that he “received more vetting than most nominees.”
Yet after the new allegations surfaced Wednesday afternoon, both Jackson and President Donald Trump began to consider more seriously whether Jackson should withdraw, according to reports from CNN and the Washington Post.