Democratic leaders urge update from absent Jackson
WASHINGTON – Democratic House leaders on Wednesday joined colleagues and constituents in urging Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, who has been on medical leave for a month without disclosing details about his condition or location, 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."
Jackson, 47, went on leave June 10, but did not disclose it publicly until two weeks later. Staff members initially released a short statement saying Jackson was being treated for exhaustion. Last week they 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.
Asked Wednesday about colleagues — including Illinois Democrats Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutierrez — 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."
A Jackson spokesman had earlier offered first word from anyone close to the congressman that specifics about his ailment might be on the way.
"We hope to hear from the doctors soon," Jackson spokesman Rick Bryant told The Associated Press earlier Wednesday. He declined to elaborate, but Jackson's wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, echoed the sentiment in comments to the Chicago Tribune.
"I'm hopeful that my husband's doctors will be able to release something soon," she told the newspaper. "I'm in constant talks with them about Jesse's condition and his medical prognosis going forward." She did not immediately respond to messages from the AP seeking further comment.
Pressure on Jackson to give an update has been mounting.
Durbin and Gutierrez in recent days have called 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 does not 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."
Bryant has said relatives requested Jackson's location be kept private and his family has been unusually reticent on the issue. Jackson's civil rights leader father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., has called it a private issue and repeatedly declined to give details. His wife has said little.
The timing of the leave has raised questions.
A House Ethics Committee investigation is pending over allegations 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 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.
Tareen reported from Chicago.
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