April 26 (UPI) — White House physician Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump‘s pick to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, withdrew his nomination for the post Thursday.
The withdrawal follows days of accusations concerning Jackson’s ethical conduct.
Jackson said in a statement that while he expected tough questions on caring for veterans, he did not anticipate having to “dignify baseless and anonymous attacks” on his character.
“The allegations against me are completely false and fabricated,” he said. “These allegations have become a distraction for the president and the issues we must be addressing.”
“While I will forever be grateful for the trust and confidence President Trump has placed in me by giving me this opportunity, I am regretfully withdrawing my nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Earlier this week, Trump called Jackson “one of the finest people” he’s ever met and said he didn’t want to put Jackson through a “process like this.”
Wednesday, Democratic senators released a list of allegations against Jackson compiled by 23 current and former colleagues of the White House doctor.
The complaints described Jackson as “toxic,” “abusive” and “flat-out unethical,” while others said he’d engaged in reckless prescribing practices and multiple incidents of drunkenness.
Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester told CNN that on overseas trips, Jackson would “go down the aisle way of the airplane and say, ‘All right, who wants to go to sleep?’ And hand out the prescription drugs like they were candy … and put them to sleep and then give them the drugs to wake them back up again.”
One account said Jackson “wrecked a government vehicle” and, on at least one occasion, couldn’t be reached when he was needed because he’d been drinking.
Jackson rejected the accusations Thursday.
“If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” he said.
Trump nominated Jackson for the post last month after the departure of VA chief David Shulkin, who himself had been a target of ethics complaints.
Jackson is the physician who declared Trump “fit for duty” after administering the president’s first physical exam.