The White House is pushing back against allegations that helped sink the nomination of presidential physician Ronny Jackson to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Jackson, 50, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and veteran of the Iraq War who has served as White House physician since 2006, was nominated this year to succeed David Shulkin as head of the VA, the second-largest agency in the federal government.
President Trump has called Jackson an "American hero" and "one of the finest men that I've met in the last long period of time."
"One of the finest men that I've met in the last long period of time."
But Jackson withdrew his nomination Thursday, in part because of a flood of allegations, including that he drank on duty and once crashed a government vehicle. Many of the accusations were compiled by the office of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who dubbed Jackson "Candyman," based on accusations that Jackson liberally distributed medications.
On Friday, however, the White House said internal records, including police reports, revealed that alcohol was never a factor in Jackson's three minor incidents with government vehicles over five years, nor was he ever found at fault – contradicting Tester’s claims.
Instead, the White House said, records show that in one instance an upset driver punched out a window on Jackson’s vehicle during a trip to Camp David, Md., and in another case, a side-view mirror was hit by a passing truck.
The Secret Service also challenged a CNN report that said Jackson had to be stopped by agents during an overseas trip for banging on a White House staffer’s hotel room door, over concerns that the noise might disturb then-President Barack Obama.
“A thorough review of internal documents related to all Presidential foreign travel that occurred in 2015, in addition to interviews of personnel who were present during foreign travel that occurred during the same time frame, has resulted in no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate,” the statement reads, according to the Washington Post.
"A thorough review of internal documents ... has resulted in no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate."
Jackson “regretfully” withdrew his name from contention on Thursday, calling the allegations “completely false and fabricated.”
“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 in a statement, adding that “the 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.”
Trump defended Jackson during an interview Thursday morning on “Fox and Friends.”
"He would have done a great job, he has a tremendous heart," Trump said. "These are false accusations. They are trying to destroy a man."
Raj Shah, White House deputy press secretary, also blasted the claims against Jackson.
“Sen. Jon Tester engaged in character assassination against a decorated rear admiral in the United States Navy, and he didn’t have a shred of evidence to back it up,” Shah said, according to Politico.
Jackson, who previously served presidents Obama and George W. Bush, was tapped by Trump to lead the VA after Shulkin departed March 28.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.