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Ex-White House doctor helps Trump spread attacks on Biden amid Texas congressional campaign

The Dallas Morning News — By Paul Cobler The Dallas Morning News

Oct. 13-- WASHINGTON-Former White House physician and current Texas congressional candidate Ronny Jackson is one of President Donald Trump's closest allies in the Lone Star State, and he's been rewarded for his loyalty with Trump's endorsement and is considered well-positioned to keep the district in Republican control.

During the Republican primary in Texas' 13th Congressional District, Jackson bragged about having a "direct line to the president," and a day after securing the nomination, he contradicted experts by playing down the need for masks during the coronavirus pandemic-as Trump has.

On Tuesday, during a Trump campaign call with reporters, Jackson questioned Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's mental fitness.

"I'm not making a medical assessment; I actually don't even practice medicine at this point," said Jackson, who claimed Biden has "cognitive difficulties," before adding that he never treated Biden during his tenure as White House physician from 2013 to 2018.

"I watch Joe Biden on the campaign trail and I'm convinced that he does not have the mental capacity, the cognitive ability, to serve as our commander in chief and our head of state," Jackson said.

In a presidential race in which either candidate would, in January, become the oldest person inaugurated as president in U.S. history, mental and physical health have become key themes for the campaigns of 74-year-old Trump and 77-year-old Biden.

Citing "tons of footage" of Biden on the campaign trail, Jackson was happy to support Trump's attacks.

For much of his campaign, Jackson has employed the strategy of appealing directly to Trump and the president's supporters. His Twitter feed is full of overtures to the president, and he's a favorite on conservative talk shows.

That profile has made him an unofficial medical spokesman vouching for Trump during the pandemic, from supporting the president's use of the unproven drug hydroxychloroquine to defending White House testing protocols earlier this month after Trump tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Jackson was seen as apolitical before Trump's inauguration.

Born in Texas, Jackson received his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and joined the Navy in 1995. In the mid-2000s, Jackson joined the White House Medical Unit under President George W. Bush, eventually being appointed physician to the president in 2013 under President Barack Obama.

During Trump's earlier years in office, Jackson defended him against allegations that he was physically unhealthy and mentally unstable in multiple appearances in front of reporters.

In 2018, Trump nominated Jackson to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. Jackson withdrew from consideration after allegations surfaced that he overprescribed painkillers, had been drunk on an overseas trip and presided over a toxic work environment. The White House denied the allegations, but Jackson never returned to work as the top White House physician.

Once he began running for Congress, Jackson used his role in the Trump administration to boost his underdog campaign. He beat out 13 other candidates to make the runoff against cattle industry lobbyist Josh Winegarner after Trump tweeted his endorsement of Jackson days before the primary.

Winegarner was endorsed by the district's retiring congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry, but that wasn't enough to overcome Trump's support for Jackson.

Now, Jackson and Trump are working toward teaming up in Washington again.

The general election is considered by experts to be a lock for Republicans in a district that Trump won with 80% of the vote in 2016, so Jackson is turning his attention to supporting Trump's reelection campaign.

"#TeamRonny volunteers are hard at work turning out early voters for @realDonaldTrump in Amarillo this morning! Texas is Trump country," Jackson tweeted Tuesday, the first day of early voting in the state.

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