White House doctor Ronny Jackson is withdrawing from consideration as Veterans Affairs secretary. Jackson says “false allegations” against him have become a distraction.
The White House sent out a statement from Jackson Thursday morning. He says he “did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity.”
Jackson has faced a series of accusations about his workplace conduct, including that he recklessly prescribed drugs and exhibited drunken behavior.
Trump chose Jackson to head the VA last month after abruptly firing Obama administration official David Shulkin.
Jackson was a surprise choice who has worked as a White House physician since 2006. He faced immediate questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers about whether he had the experience to manage the VA, which has 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans.
Veterans groups are dismayed over the continuing uncertainty at the VA, already beset by infighting over improvements to veterans care.
“The American Legion is very concerned about the current lack of permanent leadership,” said Denise Rohan, national commander of The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization.
A watchdog report requested in 2012 and reviewed by the AP found that Jackson and a rival physician exhibited “unprofessional behaviors” as they engaged in a power struggle over the White House medical unit.
That report by the Navy’s Medical Inspector General found a lack of trust in the leadership and low morale among staff members, who described the working environment as “being caught between parents going through a bitter divorce.”
It included no references to improper prescribing of drugs or the use of alcohol, as alleged in the summary compiled by the Senate Democratic staff members.
The White House has released handwritten reports from Trump and former President Barack Obama praising Jackson’s leadership and medical care and recommending him for promotion.
Trump’s first VA secretary, David Shulkin, was dismissed after an ethics scandal and mounting rebellion within the agency. But Jackson has faced numerous questions from lawmakers and veterans groups about whether he has the experience to manage the department of 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans.