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U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.’s monthlong absence from Congress is due to a mood disorder, not alcohol or drug-abuse treatment, according to the Illinois Democrat’s office.
“The congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder,” according to a statement from his physician released last night by Jackson’s office. “He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery.”
The physician’s name and that of the treatment facility were withheld to shield Jackson’s privacy, according to the lawmaker’s office, which said in its news release “the rumor about him being treated for alcohol or substance abuse is not true.” The office gave no further details, including how long Jackson would be on leave.
The secrecy surrounding Jackson’s condition has caused consternation among fellow Democrats, with some demanding that he be more forthcoming. Jackson, 47, regarded in the past as a rising star in the party in part because of his lineage, is also facing an ethics investigation over the search for a successor to Barack Obama, who gave up his U.S. Senate seat in Illinois when he became president.
Steve Israel, a New York congressman and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, declined to comment about the viability of Jackson’s re-election campaign “because it’s a personal matter for Jesse.”
In an interview, Israel said, “The important thing is for him to get well and we will worry about the politics later, if there is anything to worry about.”
Before Jackson’s office issued the statement, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer earlier yesterday added his voice to a group of Democratic lawmakers calling for Jackson to explain his ailments. Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat, told reporters that Jackson “would be well advised to give his constituents as much information” as possible about the medical condition and treatment that have kept him from Washington.
Mark Reinecke, chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and a specialist in depression and anxiety, said major depression and bipolar disorder are among the most common mood disorders.
Such illnesses are “very common and can be quite disabling in terms of the effect on an individual’s life and their functioning,” Reinecke said in a telephone interview. He said he had no personal knowledge of Jackson’s case.
“These are conditions to be taken seriously,” Reinecke said. “Effective treatments are available but it’s difficult to know how long they will take.”
In a July 5 statement, Jackson’s office said the son of civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson needed “extended inpatient treatment” for a medical condition that was “more serious” than previously thought.
“Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time,” according to that earlier statement.
A June 25 statement from Jackson’s office said he began a medical leave June 10 because he was suffering from exhaustion.
The congressman’s father, before the disclosure about his son’s mood disorder, told reporters yesterday it was “inappropriate” to ask questions about his son during the annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition business luncheon in Chicago.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California yesterday defended Jackson’s reticence until there was an “appropriate evaluation” of his medical condition. Today, she said the statement “should enable him to have the care and time he needs to get well and his constituents to know” the nature of the illness “because we just didn’t know and now we do.”
Pelosi said she hadn’t heard any complaints from fellow Democrats that Jackson had taken too long to disclose his illness.
On July 9, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, told reporters that Jackson should provide constituents in his Chicago district with more information about his health.
“There reaches a point when you have a responsibility to tell people what you’re facing and how things are going,” Durbin said.
Today, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, declined to comment on whether Jackson had provided a sufficient explanation. “This is an issue between he and his constituents,” the speaker told reporters. “I just wish him well and hope to see him back soon.”
Jackson is in his ninth term as a House member and survived a primary challenge in March from former Representative Debbie Halvorson.
He is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which is reviewing whether Jackson improperly lobbied in 2008 for then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to appoint him to the vacant U.S. Senate seat.
A report by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which referred the matter to the ethics panel, said there was “probable cause to believe” that Jackson directed Chicago businessman Raghuveer Nayak to raise campaign money for Blagojevich in exchange for appointment to Obama’s former Senate seat or knew that “Nayak would make such an offer.”
On June 20, Nayak was arrested on unrelated federal charges of paying kickbacks to doctors for patient referrals, according to a Justice Department statement.
Jackson testified as a defense witness at Blagojevich’s political corruption trial, denied raising money for Blagojevich and said he refused the governor’s demand for a $25,000 campaign contribution.
Blagojevich, convicted in June 2011 of 17 corruption counts including bribery, extortion conspiracy and bribery conspiracy, is serving a 14-year prison term.
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