Gutierrez calls on Jesse Jackson Jr. to give more info; aide says ‘soon’
BY FRAN SPIELMAN and ABDON M. PALLASCH Staff Reporters July 10, 2012 4:36PM
Congressman Luis Gutierrez talks about the new Welcoming Ordinance, at Little Village High School 3120 S. Kostner, which will make Chicago a more immigrant-friendly city. Tuesday July 10, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: August 12, 2012 6:37AM
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) on Tuesday climbed aboard the bandwagon of politicians calling on his colleague Jesse Jackson Jr. to come clean about the “physical and emotional ailments” that prompted Jackson’s extended leave from Congress.
Amidst the mounting pressure for disclosure, a top Jackson aide told the Chicago Sun-Times that the congressman’s doctors will release information “soon,” possibly as early as Wednesday.
Gutierrez said he sympathizes with Jackson’s request for privacy, but elected officials forfeit that right when health problems trigger a prolonged absence that interferes with the performance of official duties.
“If I don’t show up to work, I don’t have this immunity or this shield of privacy because it’s about my job. Any time I haven’t shown up to work, I’ve given you a clear answer about why it was I wasn’t there. And it if wasn’t to your satisfaction, you have editorialized negatively about it,” Gutierrez told reporters at an unrelated event.
Gutierrez took time away from Congress after his wife was diagnosed with cancer.
Jackson’s father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, told the Sun-Times that his son will release more information, but he gave no timetable.
“At the appropriate time, he and his doctors will share what he is going through,” the civil rights leader said.
A senior aide to the congressman told the Sun-Times that Jackson is being treated at a medical facility outside Illinois and that his doctors will release information “soon,” perhaps as early as Wednesday, though not necessarily.
“His condition is not life-threatening,” the aide said. “He does have sleep disorders. He works seven days a week most weeks. He has been under intense pressures over the last four years, so he wants to see if he can figure out a way to get some decent sleep.”
If Jackson does not come back to work in the next few weeks, he may be out through Congress’ traditional August recess, returning after Labor Day.
Gutierrez said, “There’s coming a moment in which he’s going to need to say a lot more and be a lot more specific. Remember when Bobby Rush was ill? We all knew where to find him. We all knew he was convalescing. We all knew what hospital. We prayed for him. We knew what to pray for. … Nobody held it against Congressman Rush that he missed month after month of votes. We all understand those things happen. It happens to the best of us. We become ill. If he’s sick, he should let us know about that illness.”
Last week, Jackson’s office issued a brief statement that said the congressman had checked himself into an inpatient medical facility for treatment of long-term “physical and emotional ailments.”
The release wasn’t much longer than a June 25 statement announcing Jackson had put himself on a medical leave of absence since June 10 for “exhaustion.”
Gutierrez said he was more than willing to give Jackson the space that he requested. But, Gutierrez said he drew the line after the second statement described Jackson’s ailments as “more serious than we thought and initially believed.”
The second statement said Jackson was “undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an inpatient medical facility” and that, after a preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, would “need to receive extended inpatient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment” after that.
“He has a responsibility to give us more information. I’m not demanding that information, but the people of his congressional district deserve it. The people of Illinois deserve it. If he’s gonna stand for re-election, you guys are gonna demand it,” Gutierrez said.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. He’s going to have to answer these questions one way or another or I don’t know you guys in the Chicago press very well. You’re gonna get the answer. Why not give the answer at the earliest, most opportune moment?”
Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Chicago), the assistant Senate Majority leader, said the time was fast approaching for Jackson to explain his condition.