Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s leave of absence is now among the nation’s most compelling political stories.
Public fascination over his whereabouts is beginning to rival the disappearances of Judge Joseph Crater and Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa. The story went national on Tuesday, after House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Jackson would be “well advised” to inform constituents of his medical condition.
Here’s what newspapers and websites from around the country have to say about the Chicago congressman.
ABC News’ The Note: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will likely not return to Congress until after Labor Day, a senior aide close to the congressman told ABC News. ... He claimed to have spoken to Jackson as recently as “the last few days,” and said that although he continues treatment at an inpatient facility, the congressman is not facing any life-threatening ailments.
The source, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, declined to provide any details on where Jackson is seeking treatment, but said that he is genuinely suffering from “exhaustion.”
“That’s what he has. He doesn’t get a lot of sleep and he has sleep disorders. He’s very energetic, running full-steam ahead, working six or seven days a week often and he’s been doing that for a long time,” the source said. “There’s a great deal of pressure on him due to unfounded allegations [related to the ethics inquiry] and negative press onslaught against him that are not true, so it kinda all caught up to him. He needed downtime to get away from grind.”
John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman, POLITICO: [T]he Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., in an interview with POLITICO, pushed back on an unconfirmed report that his 47-year-old son attempted suicide.
The elder Jackson was responding to a “rumor” broadcast by an Illinois radio station Tuesday. WLS of Chicago cited “two high-ranking people on the Democratic side of the aisle, in both fundraising and in the legislative branch,” as the source of this information, none of which had been confirmed with Jackson’s office or family.
“No, that’s not true,” Jackson Sr. told POLITICO. “He’s with his doctor and getting treatment, regaining his strength. That’s all I really want to say at this point.”
Jackson Sr. added that there is “no truth” to the WLS broadcast. “None at all,” he said.
An aide to the congressman also said the WLS report is inaccurate. --
Dan Turner, Los Angeles Times: [N]obody knows what hospital he's in, let alone what he's suffering from. Jackson's opponents are speculating that his emotional troubles might stem from his legal and ethical troubles -- he's under a House Ethics Committee investigation in connection with disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was caught on tape saying that an emissary of Jackson's, Raghuveer Nayak, offered to pay $1.5 million for Jackson's appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. Nayak was arrested last month on unrelated fraud charges.
But that's pure speculation; it seems likelier that Jackson has a serious medical problem. If so, his reticence is understandable: Diagnoses and prognoses can be uncertain, medical opinions often differ, and bad medical news can leave patients confused and emotionally reeling. Jackson may be keeping his condition quiet because he's not yet certain what his condition is and whether it will affect his political future. But that's still not a particularly good excuse.
For Jackson, the voters are his employers; for him to keep them in the dark this long about the reasons for his failure to represent them would be akin to an employee going on medical leave for a month and failing to tell his boss the reason why. And it's not just a matter of attendance. Jackson won the Democratic primary for his seat by a landslide in March, and voters deserve to know whether he has a condition that would prevent him from serving another full term.
Nick R. Martin, Talking Points Memo: By all accounts, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has disappeared. His fellow members of the Illinois delegation don’t seem to know where he is. The people who do, like his wife and his staff, aren’t saying.
The congressman’s office isn’t helping clear things up, either. On Thursday, in the latest vague statement, his staff described Jackson’s condition as “more serious than we thought” and that it had to do with “certain physical and emotional ailments.” They said doctors ordered him into “in-patient treatment” but declined to explain where that was.
That’s a far cry from the way the staff of his fellow Illinois delegate, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), reacted after their boss suffered a stroke in January. Kirk’s office has offered frequent updates on his progress and even allowed his doctors to be interviewed by reporters. The senator is expected to recover.
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 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."
Robert Feder, Time Out Chicago: With all the political experts, investigative reporters, gossip columnists and assorted pundits and bloggers around, not one has the connections to find out where Jackson is or what’s wrong with him? (If one of them does know and isn’t reporting it, that’s even worse.) For years the knock on Chicago media — print and broadcast — was that it was too eager to do the Jackson family’s bidding. (How else to explain the continued presence of Jesse Jackson Sr. as a Sun-Times columnist? Or his power to broker contracts for on-air talent?) But what good is that cozy relationship when the family can blatantly stiff-arm journalists’ questions and engage in a conspiracy of silence at a time like this? Granted, the ultimate responsibility is on Jesse Jackson Jr. to level with his constituents and his colleagues. But the longer the truth about him goes unreported, the worse it’s looking for Chicago’s vaunted news media, too.