U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo, has ratcheted up his rejection of allegations of misconduct during his time as the top White House physician.
The report, which presents the findings of an investigation by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Defense, was officially released Wednesday. CNN broke the news of the existence of the report Tuesday, and Jackson issued his first denial of its findings within hours, telling The Texas Tribune they were based on “false allegations.”
The investigation into Jackson’s conduct began in 2018 after the Republican was nominated by former President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and is based on testimony from more than 70 witnesses as well as documentary evidence. The report examines claims that Jackson disparaged employees, engaged in “alcohol-related misconduct” and made sexual comments about a female employee under his supervision.
According to the report, 56 witnesses, all of whom were former White House Medical Unit employees, variously experienced, saw or heard Jackson “yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates.” The review concluded that Jackson’s overall conduct during his time as the top White House physician contributed to a “negative” work environment and that he “failed to conduct himself in an exemplary manner and made an unfavorable impact on the overall WHMU (White House Medical Unit) command climate.”
Those witnesses described Jackson with terms like “tyrant,” “dictator,” “control freak,” “hallmarks of fear and intimidation,” “crappy manager” and “not a leader at all.”
The investigation also considered allegations that he made sexual comments about a female subordinate’s body during an official trip in 2014 — and that he knocked on her door in the middle of the night while intoxicated.
“You could smell the alcohol on his breath, and he leaned into my room and he said, ‘I need you.’ I felt really uncomfortable,” the woman told the inspector general. “I kind of stepped back but I kept my hand on ... the door but I stepped back into my room because I still wasn’t sure what exactly this meant. Did he need me for some medical problem or what exactly was going on? So I kind of reiterated to him, ‘Sir, I’m sorry, sir. What do you need?’ And he told me, he ‘needed me’ again and, ‘I need you to come to my room.’”
The report found that his behavior in that instance “created a negative workplace environment and failed to show dignity and respect.”
Jackson was also accused of misusing sleeping pills during official travel as a White House doctor. The report found that he did take Ambien, a brand of sleeping medication, but that the inspector general was “not aware of any specific WHMO (White House Military Office) prohibitions against the use of Ambien during long official overseas flights.”
Witnesses testified that Jackson was drunk while on duty during a presidential trip to Argentina, but the inspector general was unable to corroborate either those claims or allegations that he wrecked a government vehicle while intoxicated. The report did find that he drank one beer during the trip to Argentina, in violation of a policy for drinking alcohol while on a presidential trip.
Jackson released a video Wednesday denying the allegations, calling the investigation “a political hit job” and saying that it “purposely left out key facts,” though it is unclear what facts were not included.
“This is a political hit job because I have stood firm in my support for President Trump and his ‘America First’ agenda. The far left and the liberal press has demanded that I back away from the support, and I will not,” he said in the video. “And I flat-out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty. That absolutely did not happen. I also categorically deny the false report that I made an inappropriate comment to a male co-worker about a female co-worker.”
In an interview with Lubbock radio station KFYO on Wednesday, Jackson said the investigation and related media coverage were a result of “cancel culture” and represented a ploy from Democrats and the press to oust him.
“They just want to get rid of Ronny Jackson more than anything. ... That was the tool in their toolbox to use against me, and they will continue to do this to all the members of Congress that speak out against them, certainly the ones that have Trump associations,” he said. “These are old accusations that have been out there forever. The IG has just been sitting on them, waiting.”
According to the inspector general’s report, Jackson was given access to the tentative conclusions of the report in January and provided with an opportunity to comment before it was finalized. He did not.
Correction, March 4, 2021: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misspelled the last name of a U.S. representative in one instance. He is Ronny Jackson, not Ronny Jackon.