(Photo: REUTERS/Mitch Dumke)
Like pre-teen sleuths tracking the location of the fictitious Carmen Sandiego, constituents and lawmakers from Chicago to Capitol Hill have been playing a guessing game these past couple of days about the whereabouts of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
On June 26, Jackson's office announced he was taking a medical leave for "exhaustion," following nearly two weeks during which many people in Washington hadn't even realized he'd been gone. Then on July 5, his spokesman released a cryptic statement that his ailments were both physical and emotional, and more serious than originally realized.
"Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time," the statement read. "At present he is undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient medical facility. According to the preliminary diagnosis from his doctors, Congressman Jackson will need to receive extended in-patient treatment as well as continuing medical treatment thereafter."
Jackson faced a very tough primary race this year and still has an ethics cloud hanging above his head over allegations he tried to "buy" the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama in 2008. Speculation about what he's being treated for has ranged from alcoholism to suicide, the latter of which Jackson's father has denied.
“No, it’s not true,” Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. told Politico on Tuesday. “He’s with his doctor and getting treatment, regaining his strength. That’s all I really want to say at this point.”
Still, a growing chorus of people has been calling on the lawmaker or his office to be more specific about what he's suffering from and when he plans to return to work.
"As a public official, there comes a point when you have a responsibility to tell the public what's going on," fellow Democrat and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said on Monday.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver told reporters Tuesday the "wild rumors" swirling around about Jackson are untrue, but his continued absence could last from two weeks to four months. When asked if Jackson's office is fulfilling its responsibility to provide regular and more candid updates, Cleaver said, "Their approach is that the people in the congressional district that he represents are seemingly satisfied with the explanation that they’ve been given" and "they're not getting much pushback from the district."
Pushback is coming from colleagues and the Republican opponent he will face in November, however.
"Look, let’s not kid ourselves, he’s going to have to answer these questions," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) said Tuesday. "Why don’t we just know what it is?"
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