The nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be unraveling under the weight of allegations of serious professional misjudgment and misconduct, as well as personal shortcomings put forward in a memo by the Democrats on Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed unease over the 50-year-old Navy rear admiral’s lack of clear qualifications to lead the VA, a massive bureaucracy that has proved to be a political and management quagmire for many who have come before.
The two-page memo released by the Democrats Wednesday gave form to rumblings over the weekend that skeletons clanging around in Jackson’s past may be a deal breaker for his confirmation. The memo, surveying 23 colleagues and former colleagues, laid out accusations ranging from Jackson improperly prescribing medicines, including writing himself scripts, to drunkenness on duty and abusive behavior at the workplace.
During one incident, at a Secret Service going away party, “Jackson got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle,” the report said. While travelling abroad with the president, “[o]n at least one occasion, Dr. Jackson could not be reached when needed because he was passed out drunk in his hotel room.” Jackson’s conduct at the workplace was similarly problematic. According to the report: “Jackson was described as ‘the most unethical person I have ever worked with’, ‘flat-out unethical’, ‘explosive’, ‘100 percent bad temper’, ‘toxic’, ‘abusive’, ‘volatile’, ‘incapable of not losing his temper’, ‘the worst officer I have ever served with’, ‘despicable’, ‘dishonest’, as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and ‘screaming fits’, as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things’, ‘vindictive’, ‘belittling’, ‘the worse leader I’ve ever worked for.’”
The White House ratcheted up its support for Jackson in response to the criticism, despite conflicting messages from President Trump on Jackson’s future. “Dr. Jackson’s record as a White House physician has been impeccable,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday. “In fact, because Dr. Jackson has worked within arms’ length of three presidents, he has received more vetting than most nominees.”