Ronny Jackson, Trump's pick to run the Veterans Affairs Department, withdraws his bid over mounting misconduct allegations

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesRonny Jackson, the White House physician, has withdrawn himself from consideration to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Ronny Jackson, the White House physician whom President Donald Trump nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his name from consideration for the job on Thursday.
  • Jackson found himself in the middle of a growing scandal this week after allegations of workplace misconduct emerged.
  • Among the as-yet unverified allegations are claims of excessive drinking while on the job and an accusation that he provided “a large supply” of prescription opioids to a White House military officer.
  • The White House stood by Jackson as recently as Tuesday, even as Trump hinted that the doctor should withdraw his bid for the VA role. The doctor met with White House officials on Wednesday.

Ronny Jackson, the White House physician nominated by President Donald Trump to run the US Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his name from consideration for the role on Thursday.

“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 said in a statement.

Jackson found himself in the middle of a runaway scandal this week as multiple accusations of workplace misconduct emerged. Among the claims, which Senate lawmakers were working to verify, Jackson was accused of professional misconduct, including providing “a large supply” of prescription opioids to a White House military officer.

Other as-yet-unverified accounts pointed to “excessive drinking on the job.” That thread preceded a claim detailed by CNN on Tuesday that Jackson drunkenly banged on a female employee’s hotel-room door during an overseas trip in 2015.

Trump came to Jackson’s defence in an interview with “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, saying, “These are false accusations. These are false- They’re trying to destroy a man.”

Trump also saidJackson had an “unblemished” record.

Jackson met with White House officials on Wednesday night. As he left, Jackson told reporters, “Look forward to talking to you guys in the next few days,” a CNN White House reporter said. The White House later said the decision on whether to withdraw was Jackson’s to make.

Even before the recent allegations, Jackson was already under scrutiny over his qualifications to run the VA, the second-largest federal agency in the US. The management experience required for the role far exceeds what Jackson has previously undertaken. As the White House physician, Jackson led a medical staff of about two dozen people. The VA is a deeply troubled agency with 375,000 employees.

Jim Messina, previously a deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, said last week that Trump choosing Jackson to run the VA “was the worst choice you could possibly imagine.”

“It’s like having your Uber driver park the space shuttle,” Messina said.

Montel Williams, the former TV talk-show host and a US Marine and US Navy veteran, urged Jackson to withdraw. “This is too much, and Donald never should have put him through this on an impulse,”Williams said on Twitter.

The most recent VA secretary, David Shulkin, left the agency in March amid a scandal of his own.

Separately, the misconduct allegations against Jackson have opened up the Trump administration to new criticism over the process by which it vets appointees. Tobe Berkovitz, a political communications expert at Boston University, told The Hill: “It’s one more bit of proof, as if any were needed, that the Trump White House are not exactly the best vetters in the world when it comes to any kind of position.”

Here’s Jackson’s full statement on withdrawing his name:

One of the greatest honours in my life has been to serve this country as a physician both on the battlefield with United States Marines and as proud member of the United States Navy.

It has been my distinct honour and privilege to work at the White House and serve three Presidents.

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.

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.

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.

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.

While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I am proud of my service to the country and will always be committed to the brave veterans who volunteer to defend our freedoms.

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