By Mike Lillis - 07/12/12 12:09 AM EDT
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is receiving “intensive medical
treatment” for a mood disorder, according to a statement released
from his office late Wednesday night.
Additional details of his illness were not disclosed nor was the location of his treatment.
“The congressman is receiving intensive medical treatment at a residential treatment facility for a mood disorder. He is responding positively to treatment and is expected to make a full recovery,” his doctor said in a statement released by Jackson’s office.
The statement noted the name of his doctor but the facility would not be given to protect the lawmaker’s privacy, adding that Jackson’s treatment is protected by the privacy provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The announcement came as leading House Democrats found themselves on opposite sides of an escalating debate over whether Jackson should be more open about his mysterious monthlong absence from Capitol Hill.
Speculation has been rife about Jackson’s illness, leading to extreme reports about what the nine-term lawmaker is suffering from.
The statement from his office denied an NBC report about his condition: “The rumors about him being treated for alcohol or substance abuse is not true,” it noted.
Earlier on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Jackson should disclose his condition only when he’s ready, arguing that the timing should be dictated by nothing beyond “his healthcare needs.”
But Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, said Jackson’s constituents deserve to know why he has been on medical leave for more than a month.
“Congressman Jackson and his office and his family would be well-advised to advise the constituents of his condition,” Hoyer said at a press conference in the Capitol on job creation.
Jackson’s office, before Wednesday evening, had issued two statements since the Illinois lawmaker tiptoed out of public life on June 10, the first citing exhaustion and the second characterizing a “medical condition ... more serious than we thought and initially believed.” He last voted on June 8.
Two prominent Illinois Democrats — Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutierrez — earlier this week called for Jackson to be more candid about his absence. And Hoyer on Wednesday joined their chorus.
“People get sick, and when people get sick they miss work. Everybody in America understands that,” said Hoyer, who a day earlier had defended Jackson’s reticence. “But I think the family would be well-advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate.”
Some Democrats on Wednesday pushed back hard against those who want Jackson to disclose his condition. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), characterized such calls as “frustrating and upsetting.”
“This is not about a congressman, this is about a human being who’s sick,” Cleaver said. “Some of the people [who] are making comments about what ought to be happening, they may not, you know, have a full appreciation for, you know, the desire for privacy when it comes to a medical issue.”
Cleaver criticized those who have speculated that Jackson’s absence might be related to an ongoing House ethics investigation, or allegations of an affair with a D.C.-based bikini model, or worse.
“I hear all these stories, and they [Jackson’s family members] hear them as well, and everybody’s just amazed,” Cleaver said. “These things are just coming out of nowhere.”
Weighing in Wednesday, Pelosi said she hasn’t talked to Jackson about his absence but suggested he’s been silent about the condition because it hasn’t yet been diagnosed.
“The time is right [to give more details] when Mr. Jackson — Congressman Jackson — has an evaluation of what the situation is,” Pelosi said during a press conference on healthcare reform in the Capitol. “Hopefully he will have the appropriate evaluation so he can share that information.
“He is a valuable member of Congress, but the timing is related, not to my curiosity or anybody else’s, but to his healthcare needs,” Pelosi added. “Hopefully we will see him back here soon again, and the timing relates to his knowledge of his situation.”
Cleaver expressed confidence that Jackson would return to Capitol Hill, saying “of course” the Illinois Democrat would be back.
“He’s fine. He’s an old football player,” Cleaver said. “He’ll come back.”