Great Falls Tribune: IG report finds Montana Sen. Jon Tester's allegations against Dr. Ronny Jackson credible
When Sen. Jon Tester first made allegations about Dr. Ronny Jackson, then White House Physician, President Donald Trump unleashed a barrage of invective at Montana’s senior Senator, vowing the Big Sandy farmer would have “a big price to pay.”
Trump’s payback was personal as he traveled to the Treasure State several times to campaign against Tester, supporting Matt Rosendale, who now holds Montana’s lone congressional seat.
Tester’s allegation of Jackson included harassing behavior, drinking and even using prescription drugs while on duty. Though Tester’s allegations were serious, he never shied away from them, and Trump called the Senator “very dishonest and sick,” and demanded he resign.
On Wednesday, an Inspector General’s report confirmed the bulk of Tester’s allegations and raised serious concerns about Jackson’s behavior while on duty, the Daily Montanan reported.
Trump had nominated Jackson to lead the Veterans Administration after his stint as the White House physician.
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Jackson later withdrew his nomination, but ran for Congress in Texas, where he was elected in November 2020.
When reached for comment on Wednesday, Sarah Feldman, Tester’s Communications Director said, “Senator Tester respects the work done by the Department of Defense in conducting a thorough and nonpartisan investigation, and appreciates the many servicemen and women who came forward at the risk of their own careers. The report speaks for itself.”
In a torrent of tweets on Twitter, Trump had said, “Allegations made by Senator Jon Tester against Admiral/Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false. The Secret Service is unable to confirm (in fact they deny) any of the phone Democrat charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign. The great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human being. Admiral Jackson is the kind of man that those in Montana would most respect and admire, and now, for no reason whatsoever, his reputation has been shattered. Not fair, Tester!”
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana.
The Inspector General’s report confirmed the substance of all but two allegations. It found that Jackson had created a toxic work environment, that he drank while on duty and also used a prescription sleeping medication when he was supposed to be on alert in case of a medical emergency.
However, the Inspector General’s report also revealed that there was no evidence that he had crashed a government-owned car while drinking, nor did he expect rum to be stocked in his lodging accommodations.
Jackson was given an opportunity to comment on the results of the report, but his attorney notified the IG’s office on Feb. 9 that he had no comment.
The report paints a fuller picture of the allegations, and reveals that Jackson’s attorneys and White House counsel told him not to participate. Instead, the Inspector General interviewed more than five dozen people who had worked with Jackson in the White House or who traveled with him.
The report concluded that Jackson “disparaged, belittled, bullied and humiliated” subordinates and fostered a negative work environment.
Fifty-six of 60 witnesses who had worked close to Jackson and were interviewed described Jackson’s behavior toward subordinates as “yelling, screeching, rage, tantrums and meltdowns.” Some described it as the worst behavior they had witnessed in their medical career.
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His behavior was described as erratic, and medical personnel detail an environment where they “walked on eggshells” because small items could set off rage. One person detailed Jackson screaming at them for the wrong kind of bug spray. Another said he was enraged by the small size of some pill bottles.
The report said witnesses confirmed Jackson calling subordinates “idiots,” “lazy f-kers,” and “mother-kers.”
Alcohol and prescription drugs
One of the most serious confirmed situations include Jackson drinking while on a trip to Manila, Philippines in 2014.
The details of the report said that Jackson had made a comment about a female medical subordinate’s breasts and buttocks.
During that trip, several witnesses heard Jackson say that she had a “great t-s” and “a nice ass,” and that he would “like to see more of her tattoos.”
While there, he knocked on her door, likely drunk, and told her to come to his room, stating, “I need you.”
The woman heard him banging on her door and described him as “visibly intoxicated.”
“He was kind of like leaning with one arm against the railing of my doorway… he had kind of bloodshot eyes,” the woman said. “You could smell alcohol on his breath and he leaned into my room and he said, ‘I need you.’ I felt really uncomfortable.”
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The woman got dressed and went to his room, thinking there may be a medical emergency. When she arrived, Jackson had gotten a local delicacy of steamed birds eggs and wanted her to record him eating them.
She described his behavior as “frat boy” and another person on the trip decided it was best to keep Jackson away from the female for the rest of the trip.
In another trip, two years later, the Inspector General’s report detailed Jackson drinking while on duty in Argentina. The report also cited White House Medical rules that say medical staff can drink 24 hours prior to a trip and for two hours after the trip is complete.
One witness during the trip told investigators, “Was he drunk? I don’t know. I’m not a breathalyzer nor can I do a blood-alcohol level by smelling. But did he smell of alcohol? Yes, he did.”
Witnesses also recall being alarmed by Jackson’s use of the prescription sleeping medication, Ambien. The FDA said common side effects for the drug include, “drowsiness and impaired mental alertness.”
One doctor who was interviewed by the Inspector General said that Ambien would “very negatively impact a person’s ability to respond to anything in a medical professional capacity,” and that it would “impact a person’s focus, concentration and judgment.”
The report also said that White House medical staff cannot use medications that will effect the performance of the staff, and cannot use prescription drugs without the approval of a supervisor.
As Trump campaigned in Montana, touting the bonafides of Matt Rosendale, Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines, he also reminded crowds in Missoula of Tester’s comments.
“I’m also here because I can never forget what Jon Tester did to a man that’s of the highest quality. That’s really why I’m here,” Trump said on Oct. 18, 2018.
Then-State Auditor Rosendale, who was running against Tester for the Senate, also added his criticism of Tester.
“Tester invented the liberal smear. He used it against Ronny Jackson,” Rosendale said. “He took an honorable man, released false allegation to the media and destroyed his character.”
When contacted Wednesday, after the release of the Inspector General’s report, Rosendale’s office provided no comment and no response.