Donald Trump’s choice for veterans’ affairs secretary has withdrawn from consideration after a string of claims of heavy drinking and inappropriate behaviour surfaced.
Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the current White House doctor, criticised the “baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity” and called the allegations “false and fabricated”.
Mr Jackson reportedly underwent no interview or vetting before Mr Trump picked him to head up America’s second biggest government department. He also lacks any top level political experience.
In a statement, Mr Jackson said: "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.”
He said he expected “tough questions” about his qualifications, “but I did not expect to have to dignify baseless and anonymous attacks on my character and integrity”.
Mr Trump told Fox News that the way Mr Johnson had been treated was a “disgrace” and said he “saw where this was going”.
The decision came after Mr Jackson’s hearing before a Senate committee was delayed after a string of claims about his behaviour were submitted by former employees.
They included allegations that Mr Jackson once crashed a car after getting drunk and was known as “Candy Man” in the White House for the way he would hand out medication.
The claims – which were made anonymously – also included criticism of his managerial approach, which was described as “kiss up, kick down” in one comment.
Mr Jackson did not respond fully to the claims as they mounted up in recent days but rejected them in his statement announcing his departure on Tuesday morning.
Speaking on Fox News on Tuesday morning just minutes after the news broke, Mr Trump said Mr Jackson had a “beautiful record” of service and said Washington’s culture was to blame.
The US president has faced questions about his judgement over the decision to put forward Mr Jackson to head up the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mr Trump was left pleased when Mr Jackson gave a long press conference praising the president’s health earlier this year after a medical check, undermining speculation about the president’s ability to serve.
Mr Jackson also served as doctor to Barack Obama, Mr Trump’s predecessor, in his final years in the White House.
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Mr Trump told Fox News he knew who he would nominate next for the role, saying the person had political experience, but he declined to give a name.