Lawmaker who claims to be a retired rear admiral was actually demoted

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A retired Navy medical officer who served for years as a top White House physician has touted himself as a retired rear admiral during his post-service political career.

But after he retired, Rep. Ronny Lynn Jackson, R-Texas, was bumped down to the rank of captain, or O-6, nearly two years ago, according to service records and a defense official.

Jackson retired from the Navy in December 2019 and was elected to represent Texas’ 13th Congressional District in 2020.

The Navy said in a statement Thursday that the service “took administrative action in July 2022″ following substantiated allegations in a Defense Department Inspector General investigation that delved into Jackson’s conduct while leading the White House Medical Unit.

That administrative action involved Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro changing Jackson’s “retirement grade determination” and reducing his rank to O-6, a defense official granted anonymity to discuss personnel matters told Navy Times Thursday.

Jackson’s official service record now lists him as a retired captain.

The Washington Post first reported discrepancies in Jackson’s official retirement rank and the rank which he claims to hold.

Officials with Jackson’s office did not immediately provide comment, but as of Thursday afternoon, the retired captain’s official site still touted him being a retired flag officer.

“As a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral with nearly three decades of military service I understand the commitment and sacrifices made by servicemen and servicewomen to serve our country,” the two-term lawmaker’s congressional website states.

The move to change Jackson’s retirement rank in 2022 followed the findings of a Pentagon IG report that was released to the public in 2021.

The report, spurred by a dozen IG hotline complaints in spring 2018 after President Donald Trump nominated him to be Department of Veterans Affairs secretary, found that Jackson, who had also served in the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, presided over a toxic command climate at the White House Medical Unit and drank alcohol while on duty during official, international travel, but not that he ever damaged government property in doing so.

Jackson declined to respond to the IG’s findings before it finalized its report. Its recommendations called for the Navy secretary to take “appropriate action” against Jackson.

“We concluded that [Rear Adm.] Jackson’s overall course of conduct toward subordinates disparaged, belittled, bullied, and humiliated them, and fostered a negative work environment by failing to treat subordinates with dignity and respect,” according to a Pentagon IG statement at the time of the report’s release. “We also concluded that [Rear Adm.] Jackson failed to conduct himself in an exemplary manner in his treatment of subordinates throughout his tenure at WHMU. His treatment of subordinates created a negative work environment that witnesses said made an unfavorable impact on the overall command climate.”

That included Jackson knocking on a female subordinate’s hotel room door in the middle of the night and drunkenly declaring, “I need you,” according to the report.

Jackson has in the past pushed back on such allegations, accusing Democrats of resurrecting old Obama-era rumors “because I have refused to turn my back on President Trump.”

When the IG report was released in 2021, Jackson’s office provided Military Times with a “fact sheet,” pointing out that then-President Barack Obama promoted him to rear admiral in 2016 following the alleged alcohol incidents, calling those who reported him in 2018 “disgruntled subordinates.”

The IG interviewed 60 White House employees, 56 of whom said they were the target of or were aware of Jackson “yelling, screaming, cursing or belittling subordinates.”

“I’m proud of the work environment I fostered under three different presidents of both parties; I take my professional responsibility with respect to prescription drug practices seriously; and I flat out reject any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty,” Jackson said in a statement. “I also categorically deny any implication that I was in any way sexually inappropriate at work, outside of work, or anywhere with any member of my staff or anyone else. That is not me and what is alleged did not happen.”

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at [email protected].

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