CHICAGO — U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who covertly went on medical leave months ago and has given no sign of when he’ll return to work, seems to be in a “fragile state” and is heading back to the hospital where he was treated for bipolar disorder, a fellow Democratic Illinois congressmen said Monday.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said Jackson looked well when he visited him at his home, but that he was going back to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., on Monday for what could be another extended stay. Jackson’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, has characterized the Mayo visit as a checkup that could lead to further inpatient treatment.
Jackson quietly went on medical leave in June, and his office released little information until confirming he was being treated at Mayo for bipolar disorder and gastrointestinal issues. He was released in September and returned to his Washington home.
But he has neither campaigned nor appeared publicly for his Nov. 6 re-election aside from a robocall released to voters over the weekend. In it, he said he was “anxious to return to work” but that it was against his doctors’ advice and asked for patience. His spokesmen didn’t return requests for comment Monday.
Rush told The Associated Press that he and fellow Illinois Democrat U.S. Rep. Danny Davis talked with Jackson at his Washington home for roughly an hour on topics ranging from his mental health to the Chicago Bears. Both he and Davis urged the public for patience and understanding, and they planned an evening news conference.
“He looks well, but he doesn’t feel as well as he looks,” Rush said. “We have to give him some time and space to heal. He will then again rise up to the level of what he’s capable of. Right now he’s in a fragile state.”
The congressmen decided to visit Jackson, a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, after talking with his family. All three congressmen have similar constituents: Their Chicago area districts are mostly Democratic with many black voters, and Rush took several months of medical leave in 2008 to undergo treatment for a rare form of cancer.
Rush said part of Jackson’s healing has been to spend time with his two children, who go to school in Washington. The family also has a home in Chicago, where Jackson’s wife, Sandi, is a city council member.
Rush added that Jackson was preparing for an extended stay away from his children at Mayo again, but he did not know further details.
Mayo spokesman Nick Hanson said Monday that Jackson is not a current Mayo patient and declined to give further information.
Jackson’s family has said the congressmen remains under doctors’ care and will not return to work until he gets clearance from them to do so. But he remains on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Rush, who is also a minister, said he and Davis encouraged Jackson to take his time in getting better instead of focusing on campaigning.
Davis was not immediately available for comment.
Jackson, first elected to Congress in 1995, is largely expected to win re-election next month, but the handling and timing of his medical leave has invited criticism. Some voters and political opponents have called on him to answer more questions and give the public regular updates.
Jackson also remains under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The committee is looking into allegations that Jackson was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich’s campaign in exchange for an appointment to President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. And the announcement of the leave came just days after a former fundraiser connected to those allegations was arrested on unrelated federal medical fraud charges.
Jackson has denied wrongdoing.
More recently, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there is a federal investigation related to his campaign finances.
Jackson vigorously campaigned earlier this year when he faced his most credible Democratic challenger of his career, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, but still captured a strong majority.
Rush said Jackson needs time to heal.
“It’s almost like Jesse Jackson Jr. is the Derrick Rose of the Illinois delegation,” the congressman said, referring to the Chicago Bulls star who is recovering from surgery on a torn ACL.
“The Bulls, the coaches, the owners, they’re not trying to push Derrick Rose to come back before he’s ready, to come back before he’s fully healed.”