GOP's E.W. Jackson addresses past drug use, bankruptcy, tax liens, much more

MANASSAS, Va. (AP) - The Republican nominee for Virginia lieutenant governor acknowledged Wednesday that he used marijuana and experimented with other controlled substances in his youth, and that he was forced to file for bankruptcy.

During an unusual news conference Wednesday where he sought to clear the air about his past, E.W. Jackson spoke uninterrupted for more than 45 minutes detailing his personal history. He discussed everything from fights he got in during high school to his ultimately failed effort to establish a gospel radio station in Boston.

Jackson, an outspoken Chesapeake minister, said he wanted to counter what he called distortions of his past words and actions that have been advanced by his opponents.

He told reporters he wanted to go back and "reveal as many of my weaknesses and shortcomings as a curious press and my opposition might want to look into" and, by doing so, "maybe save you and your colleagues some further research."

Jackson's news conference came a day after Democrats nominated state Sen. Ralph Northam, a Norfolk doctor who became a hero of Virginia's reproductive rights movement, to be their nominee for lieutenant governor.

The Republican gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has put some space between himself and Jackson since the anti-abortion black minister captured the GOP nomination at a convention dominated by conservatives last month.

Jackson has drawn heavy media coverage for various statements, including accusing Planned Parenthood of being more deadly to African-American lives than the Ku Klux Klan because of the number of abortions performed on black women.

Jackson sought to get out front on his past on Wednesday. He said during his speech that he used marijuana as a youth, and when questioned after the speech, acknowledged that he experimented with other controlled substances, but did not go into detail.

He spent a lot of time discussing his 1993 bankruptcy filing, which he said came after nine years of work to make a go of an AM gospel radio station in Boston. He said many of the difficulties came from extended battles with the Federal Communications Commission, contributing to his belief that government injects itself unreasonably into the free market.

"It was painful. It was difficult. It was embarrassing," Jackson said of the bankruptcy filing. "I don't like the idea of not paying off debts."

He also talked about his transition over time from lawyer to minister. He said that while he graduated from Harvard Law School, he took several classes at the divinity school, even though Harvard apparently has no record of it.

"They were not teaching what I believed to be orthodox Christian biblical theology but rather a liberal version of that. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture; they did not," Jackson said of the Harvard divinity classes.

He acknowledged that he was asked to leave his first ministerial position in 1982, after two years at a Baptist church in Cambridge.

"It was an older congregation and I was a young 27-year-old firebrand. It was not a good mix," he said.

He said he has also faced tax liens over time for unpaid car taxes and similar items, but said that he is fully up to date on his taxes.

"Who hasn't been late in a payment for something?" he said.

He also said he had several complaints filed against him with the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, but that none of the complaints were upheld.

Jackson, who at one time was a syndicated radio preacher, has come under fire from Democrats who say his views are outside the mainstream.

"Today Ken Cuccinelli's running mate E.W. Jackson gave Virginians another example of why he and the Republican ticket are too extreme to lead this Commonwealth," said Brian Coy, spokesman for the state Democratic party. "While Terry McAuliffe and the Democratic ticket are united around a mainstream jobs agenda, Jackson and Cuccinelli continue to have to defend their divisive agenda and extreme rhetoric. "

Jackson said many of his statements have been taken out of context to try to make it sound as though he believes that birth defects are caused by parents' sins or that yoga leads to Satanism.

"I do not believe that birth defects are caused by parents' sin unless, of course, there's a direct scientific connection between the parents' behavior and the disabilities of the child," he said, giving the example of birth defects that might result from a child born to a mother addicted to heroin.

He added, "I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. One of my ministers is a yoga instructor. What I said was that Christian meditation does not involve emptying oneself but filling oneself ... with the spirit of God. That is classic Biblical Christianity."

The uproar over yoga came last week when the National Review posted an excerpt of a book that Jackson had written in which he wrote, "When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. ... The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. (Satan) is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it."

Jackson said he felt compelled to address his theology "because it has been twisted and distorted and I'm not going to spend the campaign talking about these issues, so let's get it out of the way now."