WASHINGTON — Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas, engaged in “inappropriate conduct” while serving as the top White House physician, according to a Pentagon inspector general report obtained Wednesday by NBC News.
The scathing report, expected to be released later Wednesday, alleges abusive behavior toward subordinates including sexual harassment.
The inspector general’s review, first reported by CNN, says Jackson drank alcohol, made sexual comments to subordinates and took the sedative Ambien while working as White House physician. The watchdog also found that Jackson mistreated subordinates and “disparaged, belittled, bullied and humiliated them.”
Jackson denied the allegations, saying Democrats were “using this report to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity.”
“I’m proud of the work environment I fostered under three different presidents of both parties; I take my professional responsibility with respect to prescription drug practices seriously; and I flat out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty,” he said in a statement. “I also categorically deny any implication that I was in any way sexually inappropriate at work, outside of work, or anywhere with any member of my staff or anyone else. That is not me and what is alleged did not happen.”
Citing interviews with dozens of former staff, the Pentagon inspector general said Jackson failed to treat his subordinates with dignity and respect. Witnesses described Jackson as screaming over trivial matters, displaying an explosive temper and focused on currying favor with the president.
In one incident, a female subordinate recounted how an intoxicated Jackson knocked on her door during a 2014 trip to Manila, Philippines.
“We asked the female subordinate what she was thinking when RDML Jackson knocked on her door in the middle of the night and said ‘I need you,'” the inspector general report said. “She told us that ‘when a drunk man comes to your room and they say, ‘I need you,’ your mind goes to the worst. I really felt it was a sexually inappropriate comment.'”
The woman told investigators that a Navy officer in Jackson’s position “should not be knocking on my door drunk in the middle of the night telling me he ‘needs me,’ no matter what he needs me for,” the report said.
The report also found that Jackson, who served as White House physician to Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama, “engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol during two incidents.” The incidents involved two presidential trips, the Philippines in 2014 and Argentina in March 2016.
Jackson also used Ambien during long overseas trips, the report said. This did not appear to violate rules governing his position, but some witnesses told the inspector general that his use of the sedative raised questions about his ability to deliver medical care to U.S. government officials given the side effects of the drug.
In his statement denying the allegations, Jackson said the inspector general report “has resurrected those same false allegations from my years with the Obama administration because I have refused to turn my back on President Trump. Democrats are using this report to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity, so I want to be clear.”
Jackson said that his entire professional life has been defined by duty and service, including his time in the Navy and working for three presidents (he was in the White House medical unit in the George W. Bush administration).
“I have not and will not ever conduct myself in a way that undermines the sincerity with which I take my oath to my country or my constituents,” he said.
During the Trump administration, Jackson was known for declaring that the president was in “excellent” health despite his statement that Trump needed to lose weight because he was nearly obese.
Trump nominated Jackson to be his secretary of veterans affairs in 2018, but Jackson withdrew his nomination following accusations of drinking on the job and overprescribing medication to patients.
Dan De Luce
Dan De Luce is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.
Haley Talbot is an associate producer in the NBC News Washington bureau.