CHICAGO (CBS) – The shroud of secrecy still hanging-low over Congressman Jesse jackson’s mysterious medical issues. The absence of hard facts and definitive statements from Jackson and his staff has led to all kinds of speculation from here to Washington and back.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent reports the Jackson camp is under increasing pressure to tell both constituents and colleagues what’s wrong.
However, beyond their vague statements that Jackson has been suffering from “exhaustion” and unspecified “physical and emotional ailments,” Jackson’s aides have not discussed his health, where he is staying, or where he is being treated.
The silence has led to increasing calls for Jackson’s office to disclose more information about his condition, including from one of his closest Congressional allies, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
Gutierrez said Tuesday that Jackson should say more about the emotional and physical issues his office says have forced him to take time off from Capitol Hill.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Gutierrez — one of Jackson’s closest Congressional allies — said Tuesday the time is coming soon when Jackson will have to offer more details about the ailments that have forced him to take a leave of absence that has lasted a month so far.
Gutierrez said he has publicly detailed his own absences from Capitol Hill, and he remembers fellow Congressman Bobby Rush’s very public bout with cancer.
“When Bobby Rush was ill, we all knew where to find him,” Gutierrez said. “We all knew he was convalescing, we all knew what hospital … we prayed for him, but we knew what to pray for.”
Gutierrez said Jackson should provide more details about his own health issues.
“He is in my prayers. That’s the private relationship I have with Congressman Jackson. The public relationship that he has as a member of Congress, I think does not shield him in this. I wanted to give a couple of weeks, those weeks have gone by,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said he believes members of Congress have a limited right to privacy, but he pointed out the physical and emotional ailments cited by Jackson’s office have severely affected his job. Jackson has missed dozens of votes on Capitol Hill and hasn’t been seen in public in weeks. His office has offered no details on his medical or emotional problems, nor have his aides said where he is being treated.
“I think that he has a responsibility to give us more information. I’m not demanding that information, but I think the people of his Congressional district deserve it, the people of Illinois deserve it. If he’s going to stand for re-election, you guys are going to demand it,” Jackson told reporters.
Gutierrez’s comments came a day after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Jackson would have to provide more information about his health “soon.”
If Jackson continues his bid for another term, Gutierrez said the media will increase pressuring him for information, so it’s best to say what’s ailing Jackson sooner, rather than later.
“There’s coming a moment in which he’s going to need to say a lot more and be a lot more specific,” Gutierrez said.
Jackson’s office announced on June 25 that he had been on a leave of absence since June 10 due to “exhaustion,” then last week, spokesman Frank Watkins said Jackson’s medical condition was more serious than first believed.
“Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time,” Watkins said in an email last week.
The congressman is being treated at an undisclosed “in-patient medical facility” and his doctors have said he “will need to receive extended in-patient treatment, as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter.”
However, Jackson’s aides have not disclosed whether he is being treated in Chicago, in Washington, D.C., or at another location.