Sen. Tester: VA nominee known as ‘the candy man’
The embattled nominee tapped to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs was known as “the candy man” inside the White House, Sen. Jon Tester said Tuesday, citing reports from individuals who raised concerns about his nomination.
The Montana Democrat told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that around 20 people raised concerns to his committee about Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, and according to those people, Jackson would hand out prescriptions “like candy.”
Tester described reports to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee that alleged 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.”
Tester’s staff told CNN that Jackson would hand out Ambien and Provigil.
“These are called controlled substances for a reason,” Tester said on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Jackson’s nomination came following the removal of David Shulkin from heading the VA, but his confirmation is in jeopardy as Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee review allegations against him.
CNN previously reported that Jackson met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday amid the tumult with his nomination. After the meeting, the White House began publicly defending Jackson.
However, the White House doctor also faces allegations of being drunk while overseas with then-President Barack Obama.
“If you are drunk and something happens with the President, it’s very difficult to go in and treat the President,” Tester said. “That’s what multiple people told us, this was the case on several different trips.”
Tester said there had been comments that Jackson would not be able to respond “because he had been drinking so much.”
CNN reported Tuesday that on an overseas trip in 2015, Jackson was intoxicated and banged on the hotel room door of a female employee, according to four sources familiar with the allegation.
The incident became so noisy, one source familiar with the allegation told CNN, that the Secret Service stopped Jackson out of concern that he would wake Obama.
Other concerns about Jackson included allegations of a toxic work environment, Tester confirmed.
“We were told time and time again the people above him he treated like gold, the people below him, he belittled, screamed at them, really created a very toxic environment to the point where the people who worked around him felt like they had to walk on eggshells because of his lack of respect for his job,” Tester said.
Jackson’s hearing will be delayed indefinitely following the allegations, lawmakers leading the confirmation announced Tuesday morning.