Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. is receiving intensive treatment for a “mood disorder” and is expected to make a full recovery, his doctor said on Wednesday, responding to mounting political pressure for more information on his condition.
Jackson, 47, has been on a month-long leave of absence from his job. Until Wednesday, the nature of the illness had not been disclosed.
Rumors that the veteran Democratic congressman from Illinois was being treated for alcohol or drug abuse are not true, his chief of staff Rick Bryant said in a statement.
“The Congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder,” Jackson’s office quoted his unnamed doctor as saying in the same statement.” He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery.”
The statement added that Jackson was entitled to privacy under federal law and the name of the treatment facility and the doctor would not be disclosed.
Jackson’s father, civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., told a Chicago television station earlier on Wednesday that it would be inappropriate to provide more information about his son’s condition. He would only say that he was regaining strength and “going through a tremendous challenge.”
The statement was released late on Wednesday only after a clamor for more information from local and national politicians.
Fellow Illinois Democrats said the lawmaker owed an explanation to the voters he represents in his South Side district in Chicago. He is up for re-election to a 10th term in the November 6 election.
“As a public official … there reaches a point when you have a responsibility to tell people what you’re facing and how things are going,” Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said this week.
Durbin and U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, another Illinois Democrat, compared Jackson’s situation to those of stricken Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democratic U.S. Representative Bobby Rush.
Kirk suffered a stroke in January and his doctors held news conferences about his condition. He later provided a video depicting his recovery and showing him speaking and struggling to walk on a treadmill.
Rush had surgery for throat cancer, and Gutierrez said “we knew where to find him.”
Jackson’s office issued a short statement on June 25 saying he was being treated for exhaustion and had been on leave since June 10.
Another press release on July 5 said Jackson’s problems were more serious than previously believed, that he had long dealt with “physical and emotional ailments” and needed extended inpatient treatment.
It is not clear if the reference in the new statement to “mood disorder” was a euphemism for depression. Mood disorders are a broad category that can also include illnesses such as bipolar disorder, said Dr. Darryl Pure, a prominent Chicago psychologist.
But U.S. Representative Danny Davis of Illinois, a friend of the Jackson family, said earlier on Wednesday: “I hear that it was kind of serious in terms of some kind of depression.”
Jackson’s Republican opponent, Brian Woodworth, said Jackson had an obligation to clarify what is going on.
Jackson has been the subject of a congressional ethics committee probe regarding his involvement in an alleged bribe offered to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich by one of Jackson’s supporters, Chicago businessman Raghuveer Nayak, in 2008.
The multi-million-dollar offer was intended to entice Blagojevich into appointing Jackson to President Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. Jackson admitted to lobbying for the Senate seat but has denied knowing about any money offered to Blagojevich, who is in prison.
Nayak was arrested by the FBI last month and charged with paying bribes and kickbacks to doctors to funnel patients to his surgery clinics, and then writing off the payments on his taxes.
The congressional ethics committee was also investigating the propriety of Nayak paying for plane tickets to Chicago for a “social acquaintance” of Jackson who is a hostess at a Washington nightclub.
(Additional Reporting By Tom Ferraro in Washington; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Paul Simao)
Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters