Dr. Ronny Jackson put on a hell of a show when he briefed journalists on President Donald Trump’s health in January—so much so that he reportedly got major props from the big man of sound mind and good genes in the Oval Office. But now it appears that Jackson—the White House doctor whom Trump unexpectedly nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs—may not pass his own personal exam for the Cabinet-level position.
There were already rumblings that Jackson wasn’t up for managing the second-largest federal agency when CBS News reported Monday night that Democratic lawmakers were looking into claims of misconduct. The New York Times and other outlets followed on Tuesday morning, reporting that the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has pushed back Johnson’s confirmation hearing while investigating allegations that he oversaw a hostile work environment, allowed the overprescription of drugs, and drank too much on the job.
Such claims are typically looked into during the vetting process for a nominee. This is something the Trump administration apparently did not do for Jackson. Yet White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gridley defended Trump’s pick in a statement, per the Washington Post:
Admiral Jackson has been on the front lines of deadly combat and saved the lives of many others in service to this country. He’s served as physician to three Presidents — Republican and Democrat — and been prised [sic] by them all. Admiral Jackson’s record of strong, decisive leadership is exactly what’s needed at the VA to ensure our veterans receieve [sic] the benefits they deserve.
We sincerely thank Jackson for his service. But it’s also not outlandish to think that a physician with no management experience may not be suited to run a bureaucracy that employs 370,000 workers and provides healthcare and other benefits to millions of veterans—particularly if he has also overseen a problematic work environment.
In March, Trump fired then-VA Secretary David Shulkin, a more seasoned administrator who was both locked in an ideological struggle over privatizing certain VA services and mired in a scandal over alleged luxury travel at taxpayer expense. Depending on how the inquiry into Jackson’s work history plays out, it may give Senate lawmakers a chance to pressure the White House into an alternative pick with more traditional qualifications.