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Former Top White House Doctor Denigrated Female Co-Worker and Drank on the Job, Report Finds

·5-min read

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Ronny Jackson

A scathing report this week from the Department of Defense portrayed Rep. Ronny Jackson — a retired Navy medical officer and the physician for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump — as an inappropriate drinker who failed to treat his colleagues with "dignity and respect" during his time in the White House.

The report was issued Wednesday, four months after Jackson was elected to represent Texas' 13th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. It focused on Jackson's medical work from 2012 to 2018 when he served in the White House Medical Unit, which he first joined under President George W. Bush.

Citing a "preponderance of the evidence" as part of an investigation based on comments from 60 of Jackson's subordinates in the medical unit, the report by the Department of Defense inspector general found that Jackson, 53, both "made sexual and denigrating statements about one of his female medical subordinates" and inappropriately drank on the job, among other behavior that troubled co-workers.

Jackson, a Republican who retired from the Navy in 2019 before running from Congress, slammed the report in a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday morning.

He cast the inspector general's assessment as a political attack by his Democratic rivals.

He called the previous allegations against him a "political hit job" and accused the inspector general report of rehashing "false allegations from my years with the Obama Administration because I have refused to turn my back on President Trump."

The history of the report trace back three years.

Jackson served as the White House physician directing the medical unit from 2013 until 2018, when Trump unsuccessfully nominated the Navy rear admiral to be the secretary of veterans affairs.

His nomination was withdrawn, however, amid a cloud allegations unearthed as part of his confirmation process. Those claims of misconduct led to the inspector general's investigation, which the Senate requested in April 2018, according to the resulting report.

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The report does note that it was unable to corroborate some allegations against Jackson — including that he allegedly "got drunk and wrecked a government vehicle"— and includes comments from 13 people, a fraction of the witnesses, who said he "had a somewhat favorable impact on the command climate" because, for example, he "ran a strict ship."

Many more disagreed, however: The report shows these witnesses described "Jackson's leadership style with terms such as 'tyrant,' 'dictator,' 'control freak,' 'hallmarks of fear and intimidation,' 'crappy manager,' and 'not a leader at all.' "

The report — first reported by CNN on Tuesday — concluded that Jackson "created a negative work environment" and "engaged in inappropriate conduct involving the use of alcohol" on two occasions.

"Jackson's overall course of conduct toward subordinates disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated them, and fostered a negative work environment by failing to treat subordinates with dignity and respect," read the report, which was based on contact with 78 of his former colleagues, including evidence from 60 subordinates.

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Ronny Jackson

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call Ronny Jackson

Of his subordinates interviewed for the report, 56 described Jackson's "behavior toward subordinates as yelling, screeching, rage, tantrums, and meltdowns," the report stated.

Some of those subordinates called his actions "very erratic" and said he had an "explosive temper."

"In my professional military experience, it was arguably the worst command climate that I have experienced, and I attribute that largely to Dr. Jackson," one person said, according to the report.

The report found that Jackson inappropriately drank alcohol while responsible for the health of U.S. government officials during two overseas trips: in 2014 in Manila, Philippines, and in 2016 in Bariloche, Argentina.

In Manila, the report also concluded that "Jackson made sexual and denigrating statements about one of his female medical subordinates to another of his subordinates. Specifically, he said that his female subordinate had 'great t---' and 'a nice a--' and he would 'like to see more of her tattoos.' "

The report's conclusions continue: "Later on the trip, while staying overnight with the travelling [sic] party in a hotel in Manila ... Jackson drank alcohol with his subordinates, became intoxicated, and, while in his hotel room, engaged in behavior that witnesses described as screaming and yelling, and behavior that some complained might wake the President. In the middle of the same night ... Jackson pounded on a female subordinate's hotel door, woke her, and told her, 'I need you.' "

Jackson denied any sexual harassment or alcohol misuse in his statement to PEOPLE.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Ronny Jackson

"I flat out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty," he said in a written statement through a spokesperson. "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."

The woman told the inspector general the drunken late-night incident made her feel "really uncomfortable," however.

"When a drunk man comes to your room and they say, 'I need you,' your mind goes to the worst," she told investigators, according to the report. "I really felt it was a sexually inappropriate comment."

In Argentina for a presidential trip two years later, the report found that "Jackson drank one beer during a stop in Bariloche. Another witness said that ... Jackson 'smelled of alcohol' " when he had his medical bag, signifying he "was assuming duties as the primary physician."

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The witnesses also told the investigators they were "concerned" because they said Jackson was taking Ambien, which can cause drowsiness and reduce a person's mental alertness, while caring for the president.

The report stated: "The witnesses, all of whom were [White House Medical Unit personnel], raised concerns about ... Jackson's potential incapacity to provide proper medical care during such flights while using Ambien because of the common side effects."

Overall, the report found that "Jackson failed to conduct himself in an exemplary manner and made an unfavorable impact on the overall [White House Medical Unit] command climate."

The inspector general recommended the Navy secretary "take appropriate action" regarding Jackson. CNN previously reported that one potential consequence for Jackson would include his Navy retirement pay possibly getting reduced.