Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), indicated Tuesday that many of the rumors and speculation about Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) were inaccurate and that he would return between 2 weeks and 4 months when that time range was suggested to him.
“In between what you just said,” Cleaver responded when asked if Jackson could possibly return to work on Capital Hill between two weeks and four months.
When asked if Rep. Jackson’s disappearance could have anything to do with an ongoing ethics investigation, Cleaver quickly said confidently, “No, no — I was talking to his wife… not true. And I know the whole family.”
Last Thursday, Rep. Jackson’s office released a statement that said in part, “Recently, we have been made aware that he [Rep. Jackson] has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time … 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.”
Mystery has swirled around Jackson’s whereabouts. The words “emotional ailments” in last week’s press release created particular concern. Even the Congressman’s location has become the source of mystery after he announced a leave of absence on June 26.
Rep. Cleaver, a Methodist pastor who is frequently sought after for counsel, said, “no comment” when asked whether he’d spoken to Jackson directly.
“Most of it is wild rumor,” Cleaver said referring to rumors swirling around Jackson’s disappearance. “With 440 members not in the hospital this doesn’t become a national crisis,” Cleaver added.
“People in the Congressional district that he represents are seemingly satisfied with the explanation that they’ve been given. The two minority newspapers in his district have written about it twice and so — they [Jackson's office] are not getting much push back from the district,” Cleaver said when asked about why neither Jackson or his staff have provided details on his absence.
Yesterday, the dean of the Illinois delegation and the Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said, “As a public official … there reaches a point when you have a responsibility to tell people what you’re facing and how things are going.”
Other members of Congress who have worked closely with Jackson have said they have not been in contact with Jackson.
“I just hope he’s OK,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) on Monday night. Fattah serves with Jackson on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Reps. Bobby Schilling (R-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Lacy Clay (D-MO) indicated yesterday they do not know where Jackson is and have not spoken with him recently.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Managing Editor, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She can be heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW 89.3 every Friday at 6:30 p.m. Ms. Burke is a former employee of USAToday.com and ABC News. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter @Crewof42.