White House physician Ronny Jackson has withdrawn as President Donald Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Veteran Affairs following damaging allegations about his professional conduct.
“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 on Thursday.
“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.”
The move comes as Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee had been reviewing Jackson’s suitability for the role amid criticism of his lack of experience.
On Wednesday, after his confirmation hearing had been postponed, Senate Democrats released a damaging two-page document which detailed several unsubstantiated allegations by more than a dozen staffers that Jackson had was abusive to colleagues, loosely handled prescription drugs and struggled with alcoholism—on one occasion crashing a vehicle while intoxicated. In his statement, he denied the claims.
“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,” he said. “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.”
In an interview on Fox News’ Fox & Friends on Thursday morning, Trump stood by Jackson.
“These are false accusations. These are false. They’re trying to destroy a man,” the president said.
First Daughter Ivanka Trump also stepped in to defend the doctor, who also served as a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Admiral Ronny Jackson is a man of exceptional integrity, character and intellect. 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!— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) April 26, 2018
Jackson will return to his normal duties as White House doctor, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.