Growing demand for information on Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s absence from Congress
(CBS News) There are not that many secrets on Capitol Hill, but people still don't know what's happening to Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., who has been on medical leave for several weeks and has said almost nothing about it.
Jackson's colleagues were patient at first, but now say he owes his constituents answers to some basic questions about what's ailing him, where he is, and when he expects to return.
In his 18 years in Congress, Jackson has developed a reputation for speaking his mind. But as his mystery absence moves into its second month, even his fellow Illinois Democrats say they've been kept in the dark.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez said, "The public relationship that he has as a member of Congress, I think does not shield him."
"His health is the number one priority," Sen. Dick Durbin said. "As a public official though, there reaches a point where you have a responsibility to tell people what you're facing and how things are going."
All that's come out of the congressman's office is a pair of cryptic statements, a week apart. The first, in late June, said he was suffering from "exhaustion." But the second warned his "medical condition is more serious that we thought" and that the 47-year-old congressman was receiving "extended in-patient treatment" after grappling with "certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time."
In the absence of any real information, rumors have begun to fly on Chicago talk radio, with some even speculating the congressman attempted suicide - a theory his inner circle has denied.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, the congressman's father, has said, "Rumors are flying, but we have to rely on the truth."
The reverend has divulged little. In an interview on a Chicago TV station, he said it would be "inappropriate" to share details right now.
"I speak as a father, and one who right now is pained, and as he comes out of his crisis, we, we're with him," Rev. Jackson said. "And we hope that he'll be fully restored to his health. Right now, he's going through a tremendous challenge."
Like all House members, Congressman Jackson is up for re-election in just four months. His father says he does expect him to return to Congress and that he will give a full explanation about his condition and where he's been when he's doing better.
The House Ethics Committee has had an ongoing investigation into whether Jackson Jr. pressured a friend to raise millions for disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for Blagojevich naming Jackson to President Obama's former Senate seat. Jackson insists he did nothing wrong and obviously, he wasn't named to that seat. But his friend was arrested a few weeks ago on unrelated federal fraud charges. Jackson has been under some personal strain, but whether that strain has contributed to the emotional and medical problems his doctors alluded to, is unknown.
For more on this story, watch Nancy Cordes' report in the player above.
- Nancy Cordes
Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.Follow on Twitter »
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