The “Where’s Jesse, Jr.?” mystery has been solved. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota issued a statement saying that Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., who took a leave of absence from Congress on June 13, was being evaluated “for depression and gastrointestinal issues.”
Jackson’s whereabouts have been a mystery since he went on medical leave June 10. The statement issued Friday said the congressman “has arrived at Mayo Clinic,” but did not say where he came from.
Friday’s statement offers the most specific description yet of Jackson’s condition. When Jackson’s office first announced his medical leave two weeks after it began, it said the 17-year congressman was being treated for exhaustion.
Then on July 11, amid increasing calls for further disclosure, Jackson’s office issued a statement saying he was being treated for a “mood disorder” at an inpatient center, but again declined to be more specific. His staff cited federal medical privacy rules and declined to disclose any further information about where he was being treated, or for what, other than to deny that he was being treated for acohol or drug abuse.
Jackson, 47, is under a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that a longtime friend, Raghuveer Nayak, offered former Gov. Rod Blagojevich up to $6 million in campaign cash to appoint Jackson to President Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
Nayak was arrested in June on federal fraud charges involving his surgical centers.
Jackson has denied any knowledge of fundraising in exchange for the appointment.
Is this all that Jackson owes his colleagues and constituents? It’s probably all they’re going to get. Treating the congressman’s whereabouts and condition as if they were national security issues doesn’t make any sense unless the true nature of his illness could be politically damaging.
His staff cites “federal medical privacy rules,” but that’s a strawman argument. The rules don’t prevent the release of information, they give the option to patients — an option the Jackson people are exercising voluntarily. They have made a political calculation about not releasing more details of where the congressman has been, and the specifics of his condition.
It may be their right, but the argument has been made that a congressman owes his constituents more than a mystery. How long will he be laid up? What’s his prognosis? The people Congressman Jackson represents don’t deserve this secrecy and lack of disclosure.
Let us hope for the sake of his family, that Rep. Jackson makes a speedy recovery.