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Aide: Jesse Jackson Jr. treated for ‘physical and emotional ailments’

U.S. Rep. Jesse JacksJr. (2nd District)

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (2nd District)

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Updated: August 7, 2012 6:23AM



U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. revealed Thursday that he has checked himself into an inpatient medical facility for treatment of long-term “physical and emotional ailments.”

Thursday’s five-sentence release from Jackson’s spokesman was slightly less vague than the three-sentence June 25 release announcing that the congressman had put himself on medical leave of absence since June 10 for “exhaustion.”

But it still left many questions unanswered, such as where he is; what exactly he is suffering from; and when or whether he will return.

Jackson’s Republican opponent and the Democrat he beat in the primary — before he had revealed any ailments — both said Jackson owed it to his South Side and south suburban constituents to release more details.

“Congressman Jackson’s medical condition is more serious than we thought and initially believed,” his spokesman, Frank Watkins said in Thursday’s release. “Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time.

“At present, he is undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient medical facility. According to the preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, Congressman Jackson will need to receive extended in-patient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter.”

As with the first release, Thursday’s concluded:

“We ask that you keep Congressman Jackson and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult period.”

Debbie Halvorson, the Democratic former congresswoman Jackson defeated in the March primary election in the 2nd Congressional District, said the limited releases leave too many questions unanswered.

“He owes it to his constituents to let them know what’s really going on in his life,” Halvorson said. “When he asks people to keep him in their thoughts and prayers, nobody knows what to pray about … I was in the hospital a couple times when I was state senator. I told people where I was. You don’t have a private life when you’re a public official.”

Brian Woodworth, Jackson’s Republican opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, agreed.

“When you have a condition that starts to impact on your service as a representative, I think you need to get that out,” Woodworth said. “The voters need to be able to judge. We see Sen. Mark Kirk and other congressmen have been very open.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he recently spoke with his congressman son and that the younger Jackson is just exhausted and overwhelmed. He would not give details of his son’s condition or say where he is but said doctors are evaluating him for “treatment of his challenges.”

On June 26, Jackson’s sister Santita posted this on her Facebook Page: “Thank you for all of your love and expressions of support. ... They mean the world to our family. ... I love you.”

Others in Congress said they didn’t know where the younger Jackson was and were unaware of why he’d been absent. There is no formal leave process for congressmen.

“No one has a clue,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). “There is concern among his colleagues. ... Anybody there could understand that. It’s a stressful occupation.”

“You can’t always tell how one feels by how one looks, so he did look fine,” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) The statement “pretty much indicates that, upon further review, it was determined that it was worse than first suspected. I just hope that he’s going to be OK. Jesse Jackson Jr. is one of the most able members of Congress. ”

Should Jackson’s “serious ... physical and emotional ailments” announced by his office Thursday force him to withdraw as the Democratic nominee for Congress before Nov. 6, the official with the power to name his replacement on the ballot would be Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios, who also serves as county assessor.

About 70,000 Democratic votes were cast in the Cook County portion of the 2nd Congressional District in the March primary election, versus a little less than 5,000 each in the Will County and Kankakee County portions of the district, meaning Berrios would have the greatest say because he is the committeeman with the greatest share of the weighted vote.

The aldermen whose wards dominate the city portion of the district are Jackson’s wife Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th); Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Ald. John Pope (10th).

Watkins had issued a three-sentence statement June 25 announcing: “On Sunday, June 10th, Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. went on a medical leave of absence and is being treated for exhaustion. He asks that you respect his family’s privacy. His offices remain open to serve residents of the Second District.”

His wife, Ald. Jackson, has offered only brief comments, telling fellow City Council members last week: “I think it’s important to say I love my husband. As a wife, my primary concern is that of my children. I just want to make sure that they’re taken care of, provided for.”

Last month, a fund-raiser and Jackson family friend — Raghuveer Nayak — was arrested by federal authorities on charges he was involved in a business fraud scheme.

Jackson, 47, already was on his leave by then, according to his attorney, Paul Langer, who said last week that Jackson’s absence isn’t related to the Nayak case. “I can tell you unequivocally it is unrelated to the arrest of Mr. Nayak,” Langer said.

For several years, Nayak has been a thorn in Jackson’s side, since then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was caught on a secretly recorded FBI tape saying that Nayak, acting as an emissary for Jackson, had made what Blagojevich believed was a $1.5 million offer in exchange for a hoped-for appointment by the governor to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barack Obama following his 2008 election as president.

Jackson has repeatedly denied he authorized anyone to approach Blagojevich on his behalf and has never been charged.

But he is facing a House Ethics Committee investigation concerning allegations tied to the Blagojevich case.

Sandi Jackson has admitted to a rough spot in the couple’s marriage two years ago after Nayak was revealed to have paid for plane tickets for a “social acquaintance” of her husband so the congressman could rendezvous with the woman.

Jackson first won office in 1995.



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