Rep. Ronny Jackson, echoing Trump, casts doubt on Biden’s upcoming debate performance

GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas, a former White House physician, suggested Sunday that President Joe Biden should submit to drug tests immediately before and after Thursday’s presidential debate.

“I’m going to be demanding on behalf of many millions of concerned Americans right now that he submit to a drug test before and after this debate, specifically looking for performance-enhancing drugs,” Jackson told Fox News.

Baseless accusations that Biden has used performance-enhancing drugs have dovetailed with attacks on the president’s age and mental fitness as he seeks another term at 81. Former President Donald Trump, who just turned 78, has also faced questions about his cognitive abilities, including when he misidentified Jackson as “Ronny Johnson” at a rally last weekend.

Jackson’s comments echo Trump, who used a rally in Philadelphia to spread unfounded accusations about Biden’s using drugs to enhance his debate performance.

“So a little before debate time he gets a shot in the ass and that’s — they want to strengthen him up. So he comes out, he’ll come out — OK. I say he’ll come out all jacked up, right?” Trump told supporters at the rally.

Asked to comment on Jackson’s allegations, a White House spokesperson pointed to a statement last month from spokesperson Andrew Bates, who told Politico: “It’s telling that Republican officials are unable to stop announcing how intimidated they remain by [the] President’s State of the Union performance.”

Bates added, “But after losing every public and private negotiation with President Biden — and after seeing him succeed where they failed across the board, ranging from actually rebuilding America’s infrastructure to actually reducing violent crime to actually outcompeting China — it tracks that those same Republican officials mistake confidence for a drug.”

Asked by CNN last week about Trump’s baseless accusations that Biden was taking drugs, Biden campaign co-chair Mitch Landrieu referred to the “Ronny Johnson incident.”

“The other day, you may remember, he was trying to question our president’s mental acuity and he could not remember the name of his own doctor, so tell President Trump: Bring whatever he’s got,” Landrieu said.

It’s not the first time the idea of drug tests has come up around a presidential debate. In 2020, ahead of one of their general election debates, Trump said he would be willing to take a drug test and “I think [Biden] should, too.”

In October 2016, Trump also expressed willingness to take a drug test before a presidential debate and asked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to do the same.

Jackson, a close ally of Trump, faced his share of scrutiny over his behavior in the White House. He joined the White House medical team during George W. Bush’s administration and was the White House physician under Barack Obama and Trump.

In 2018, Jackson withdrew his nomination to be the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs after allegations surfaced that he was sometimes drunk on duty and that he was known as the “candy man” among staff members for handing out prescription drugs without paperwork.

At the time, Jackson called the allegations “completely false and fabricated.”

A report in 2021 from the Defense Department inspector general alleged misconduct from Jackson, including abusive behavior and sexual harassment of subordinates. Jackson has denied those allegations.