Trump Nominee Ronny Jackson Withdraws Amid Claims He Was Giving Out Pills Like A “Candyman”
Facing a growing list of misconduct allegation on Thursday, White House doctor Ronny Jackson withdrew as President Trump's nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. The laundry list of allegations against Jackson included prescribing medication in unethical ways, driving under the influence, and being unable control his temper. It's also been reported that Trump's Veteran Affairs pick was nicknamed "candyman" for passing out prescription drugs.
Although Jackson has denied these allegations, he said he was pulling himself from consideration as Trump's VA pick because his nomination had become a distraction for the president. "The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated," Jackson, who currently serves as White House physician, said in a statement. "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 a two-page document released Wednesday, Democratic staffers on the Senate's Veterans' Affairs Committee summarized a number of misconduct allegations levied against Jackson by 23 of his current and former colleagues. According to the New York Times, these included allegations that Jackson had written prescriptions for himself, drunkenly wrecked a government vehicle, passed out drunk on a trip with former president Barack Obama, and, in one incident, had caused his medical staff to "panic" after he provided one White House Military Office staffer with "a large supply" of Percocet, a narcotic pain reliever.
In their testimonies to the Senate's Veterans' Affairs Committee, staffers reportedly described Jackson as "the most unethical person I have ever worked with," "flat-out unethical," and "incapable of not losing his temper," the Times reported. Committee members also reported being told that physicians "felt uncomfortable and refused to be a part of the loose dispensing of drugs" that Jackson was alleged to have participated in.
In an interview earlier this week, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Jackson's willingness to hand out prescription drugs as if they were candy had earned him the nickname the "candyman." According to Tester, Jackson would "go down the aisle way of the airplane and say, 'All right, who wants to go to sleep?' And hand out the prescription drugs like they were candy... and put them to sleep and then give them the drugs to wake them back up again."
Those drugs reportedly included Ambien, a sedative, and Provigil, a stimulant. "These are called controlled substances for a reason," Tester said.
Jackson said Thursday he was withdrawing in order to allow the president to focus on what was most important. "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.
But while the allegations may have forced Jackson out of the running to head the Department of Veteran Affairs, they don't appear to have jeopardized his current position in the White House. Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a senior White House adviser, defended Jackson's character in a brief statement released Thursday via Twitter. "Admiral Ronny Jackson is a man of exceptional integrity, character and intellect," she tweeted. "We are grateful for his long and distinguished service to our Nation and look forward to continuing to see his warm smile each day at the White House!"
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also noted that Jackson was "here at work today" in his role as White House physician in a statement released Thursday, the Washington Post reported.