ABOVE PHOTO: Jesse Jackson
Congressional colleagues press for ‘exact’ answers about condition and whereabouts
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is under intensive medical treatment for a “mood disorder,” his office announced in a brief statement Wednesday, more than a month after the Chicago Democrat quietly went on medical leave of absence.
The statement gave no details about where Jackson was being treated. Staff members said the statement was from Jackson’s physician but that the doctor’s name and location would not be released because of federal privacy laws.
“The Congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder,” the statement said. “He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery.”
Jackson’s office also noted that reports about Jackson being treated for “alcohol or substance abuse” weren’t true.
Jackson, 47, went on medical leave June 10, but his office did not disclose it publicly until weeks later.
Staff members initially released a short statement saying Jackson was being treated for exhaustion, but last week said his condition was worse than previously thought and required treatment at an inpatient facility. Staff also said Jackson has been privately battling emotional problems.
Jackson’s spokesmen did not return calls seeking more details on the statement Wednesday.
Pressure has been mounting on Jackson to disclose his whereabouts and exact medical condition.
Earlier Wednesday, Democratic leaders in the U.S. House joined colleagues and constituents in urging Jackson to provide a public update about his condition as soon as possible.
House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, spoke about Jackson at separate unrelated events in Washington on the same day that a Jackson spokesman in Chicago said his staff hoped to get more information from doctors “soon.”
Asked about colleagues who have said Jackson owes his constituents an update about his condition as soon as possible, Pelosi said she hoped he would have “the appropriate evaluation so he can share that information.”
“I feel sad that whatever the situation is that he finds himself having to be away from Congress,” Pelosi said. “Hopefully we’ll see him back here soon again.”
Illinois Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutierrez were among those pushing Jackson for more information, calling it his responsibility as a public official. Jackson’s little-known opponents in the November election have spoken out on the same issue, and voters in his district have asked questions.
Hoyer told an unrelated news conference Wednesday that Jackson doesn’t find himself in “an unusual circumstance.”
“People get sick, and when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that,” Hoyer said. “But I think the family would be well advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate.”
Jackson spokesman Rick Bryant has said relatives requested Jackson’s location be kept private, and his family has been unusually reticent on the issue. His wife has said little and Jackson’s civil rights leader father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., has called it a private issue and repeatedly declined to give details.
The timing of the leave has raised questions.
A House Ethics Committee investigation is pending over allegations that Jackson discussed raising money for Rod Blagojevich’s campaign so the then-Illinois governor would appoint him to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich is serving a prison sentence for corruption. Jackson has denied those claims.
Jackson also allegedly directed a fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak, to buy plane tickets for a woman described as Jackson’s “social acquaintance.” Jackson and his wife have called that a personal matter.
Days before Jackson announced the medical leave, Nayak was arrested and pleaded not guilty to unrelated medical fraud charges. At Blagojevich’s 2010 corruption trial, prosecutors said another Blagojevich fundraiser was ready to testify that Jackson instructed Nayak to raise money for Blagojevich’s campaign to help him secure the Senate seat. The same witness later testified he attended a meeting with Jackson and Nayak.
Jackson was not charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Jackson faces a Republican and independent candidate in November, though he’s widely expected to win re-election. He first won office in a 1995 special election and has easily won each race since. Jackson’s district includes parts of Chicago and some suburbs.