Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Extended Absence

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is being treated for a "mood disorder." This, after NBC News reported that he is being treated for alcoholism, a claim his office denies. We have reaction on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm.

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s office issued the following statement from his doctor's office on Wednesday evening:

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"Information regarding the Congressman's treatment is protected by federal law under the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPPA").  The name of the attending physician and treatment center will not be disclosed in order to protect his continuing privacy.

His physician makes the following statement:

"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." 

Chicago Tonight spoke with Brian Woodworth, Jackson Jr.'s opponent and Republican candidate for Congress in the 2nd District of Illinois, before this latest news broke. Read what he had to say about Jackson Jr.'s leave of absence in our Q&A.

Jesse Jackson Jr. has been missing for a month now, do you think he should come forward with more information or should his privacy be respected?

Yes to both. What I mean by that is I don’t think it’s necessary to come out with where he’s being treated because there can be security issues. But he should be more forthcoming about his physical and emotional illnesses.

Why do you think he has an obligation to disclose more to the public?

Primarily because as a representative, he’s a public servant, and in hierarchy of employment, any public servant should know that the people are the boss and supervisor. In any other industry, you couldn’t disappear for two or three weeks and not call in. You would have to let them know, you couldn’t just say "extended leave of absence." When you’re a public servant, you’ve made an agreement that much of your life would be public. People have a right to know because certain ailments take time to heal, and there’s a certain expectation of time limit for how long treatment takes. Voters have a right to know so they can make judgments for themselves, if they want to be understanding or forgiving.

Have you heard anything new regarding Jackson and his condition?

Everything I’ve heard is still speculation and rumors, it’s the same thing everyone else has heard. There are so many rumors when you don’t have an answer, you make it up. With Jackson, he’s already plagued with rumors, so you would think he would want to dispel rumors as well.

How do you think his absence is affecting Congress?

Well, it’s not affecting Congress so much as it’s affecting his congressional district. Even though he’s one voice out of 434 others, the way he votes is indicative of the people he represents; 700,000 people have no voice now in Congress.

How do you think his absence will affect the election?

Will it affect it? It all stands to be seen. I can tell you my hope is that the voters will reflect on the congressman, and even if he’s innocent with everything that follows him, his perception is at arms now. Corruption, bribery, all those accusations and rumors follow him and damage his credibility in Congress. I would hope people would want a representative with no baggage.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Everyone wants me to comment on Jackson when my primary focus is on the district and what it needs. There are still areas that have 40 percent unemployment, and the representative and congressman think paying off bills with credit cards will help the economic situation, and it’s not going to.

What are your thoughts about Jesse Jackson Jr.’s absence? Should he come forward with more information or should his privacy be respected? Post your comments below or sound off on our discussion board!

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