‘This is like something out of the show Madame Secretary…’
- According to four administration officials, allegations against Jackson were brought by VP Pence’s Army Physician Dr. Pena
- Dr. Pena, officials contend, has held a long-time grudge against Jackson because of his continuing promotions in the White House
- Senator Tester, who made the allegations against Jackson public on CNN, would not disclose his source
- The Secret Service does not corroborate Sen. Tester’s statements
Unsubstantiated rumors and accusations targeting White House physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, who was nominated by President Donald Trump to be Secretary of the Veterans Affairs Administration, have been propelled by media outlets and Democratic members of the Senate without any proof that those allegations were true.
But where did these rumors and accusations start? Who was fighting to keep Dr. Jackson from being nominated and who wanted to smear his name publicly?
According to four administration officials, the main allegations were brought forth by Vice President Mike Pence’s Army physician Dr. Jennifer Pena, who is assigned to Pence by the White House Medical Unit and does not work directly for the office of the Vice President. Those officials contend Pena has held a long-time grudge against Jackson because of his continuing promotions in the White House. She began her career at the White House during the Obama administration. According to the officials, Pena, who is still active military and assigned to the White House Military Office, did not follow proper protocol to report on the allegations. Instead, she went directly to the Senate with the support of some current and former White House medical staff who were her loyalists. None of the allegations she allegedly brought forth have been substantiated.
Widget not in any sidebars
Pence’s spokesman, Deputy Assistant Jarrod Agen could not be reached immediately for comment. Pena, who was appointed to the White House Medical Unit during the Obama administration, did not return several calls for comment. According to Democrats with the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee the bombshell allegations were allegedly backed by 23 individuals, but the committee did not release the names of those individuals bringing the allegations.
Jackson, who served in the White House under three administrations, withdrew his nomination for Veteran’s Affairs and stories contending he is no longer the President’s physician are only partially accurate. Jackson had abdicated his role as the President’s physician when he was nominated by Trump for the Veteran’s Affairs Administration but as of Monday, he continues to work in the White House Medical Unit.
Those who have served with Jackson, both in the Bush administration and Trump administration, describe the attacks against Jackson’s character as flat out wrong and unbelievable, current and former administration officials told this reporter. A number of former Obama administration officials have also come forward in Jackson’s defense, along with the U.S. Secret Service, which shot back at the allegations brought by the top Democrat on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee member Sen. Jon Tester from Montana.
Tester’s office did not return phone calls for comment.
“(Jackson) is disgusted that the accusations have carried so much weight with nothing to back them up,” said a senior Trump administration official, who knows Jackson. “This is a vendetta in particular and these false allegations were given to members of Congress then leaked to the press. There is absolutely no merit to any of these stories…he’s disgusted with the whole thing.”
A White House official told this reporter that there is no evidence or documentation of the allegations that Jackson drove drunk and wrecked a government vehicle, quarterly audits don’t show any evidence that Jackson overprescribed medication and there is no evidence or reports of him drinking on the job.
The onslaught of stories drew attention away from the administration’s mission to fill the post at the Veteran’s Affairs Administration and led Jackson to withdraw his name from the nomination last week.
“This is like something like out of the show Madame Secretary,” said a former Bush Administration official, who knows Jackson and served with him in the White House. The official referenced the American political television series starring Tea Leone, which shows the seedy side of Washington D.C. and the backstabbing tactics of those trying to rise to the top.
“Dr. Jackson was always professional and kind,” said the former Bush official. “I never heard of any of these allegations against him until Pena brought them to Congress. I never saw any evidence of this. It’s tragic what’s happened to him.”
Jackson has endured numerous security clearances and had never had a disparaging report from the FBI, according to Administration officials. Those security clearances require investigators to interview family, friends, former employers, neighbors, current coworkers and even old friends. The months-long investigations can be grueling and investigators ask about everything from that person’s personal habits to possible foreign contacts and connections.
The White House on Friday said officials conducted a thorough review of presidential Jackson’s vehicle records. They only found three minor incidents but there was no evidence supporting a document released by Senate Democrats this week that he “wrecked” a car after drinking at a Secret Service going-away party.
Widget not in any sidebars
In a rare move, the Secret Service released a statement denying the details that its agents had to intervene during an overseas trip because Jackson was drunk and pounding on a door that would have disturbed then President Obama.
“Sen. Tester even admitted that he reviewed the FBI files and there was no derogatory information in there about Jackson but he still spread malicious rumors,” said a current Administration official. “Certainly we would never nominate anybody who had derogatory information. Pena has had a long-standing feud with doctor Jackson…she’s very jealous that he’s been consistently promoted. This isn’t about being a whistleblower – there are other procedures for that. She went up to the hill and she spoke with approximately twenty-five Democrats…she’s a holdover in the White House and didn’t want Jackson to be nominated.”
Trump has called on Tester to resign after the Montana Senator took the anonymous allegations to the press, telling CNN that Jackson was known as the “candy man” for passing out prescription drugs, to include the sleep aid Ambien, on overseas trips and then giving those staffers drugs to wake up.
Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, had taken allegations public by saying on CNN that Jackson was known as ‘the candy man’ to staffers in the White House and that Jackson would give drugs to passengers traveling with the president overseas to ‘put them to sleep and then give them the drugs to wake them back up again.’”
Tester did not disclose who brought the allegations to his committee.
But the unfounded allegations include:
- Jackson had private stocks of controlled substances, suggesting he took advantage of lax record-keeping of drug inventories in the White House medical unit.
- At one time there was missing Percocet. It threw the medical staff into a panic, the Tester report found. It said Jackson had provided a large supply to a staffer in the White House military office, the report said.
- Jackson asked staffers to write prescriptions for each other so that drugs could be given to non-beneficiaries. According to the report, the physicians felt uncomfortable that they refused to be part of the culture of loose distribution of drugs to current and former White House staffers.