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Hoyer joins calls for Jackson Jr. to open up about mystery ailment

July 11, 2012|By Katherine Skiba and Monique Garcia, Tribune reporters | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • This file photo shows Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) addressing the 2008 Democratic National Convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
This file photo shows Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) addressing the 2008… (Robyn Beck / AFP Getty Images )

A top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives urged Wednesday that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. tell voters what is ailing him.

Jackson, 47, a Chicago Democrat, has been on a medical leave since June 10, but his aides and family have declined to disclose the nature of his medical problem, where he is being treated or when he might return to work.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, addressed the issue today at a news conference, saying:

“Let me just deal with this briefly in this way: I think Congressman Jackson and his office and his family would be well advised to advise the constituents of his condition. He’s obviously facing a health problem. We have many members who are out right now.

“This is not an unusual circumstance. People get sick, and when people get sick, they miss work. Everybody in America understands that. But I think the family would be well advised to give his constituents as much information as is appropriate.”

The comments by Hoyer, the House minority whip, are a shift from his statements Tuesday, when he was quoted by the Hill as saying, “They [Jackson's aides] have certainly reported that he is ill and seeking help. And I think that that fulfills that responsibility."

Hoyer’s new remarks urging more disclosure follow similar calls from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 official in the Senate, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who, like Jackson, is a Chicago Democrat.

But another Illinois Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, declined today to join them.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-Calif.), also was willing to give Jackson more time to disclose his medical condition.

“The time is right when Congressman Jackson has an evaluation of what his situation is and I’m sure then he will share it with his constituents, ” Pelosi said at a separate news conference today.

Pelosi, who said she had not spoken to the lawmaker since his leave began, added: “I hope that we will hear soon that he is on the way to recovery. He’s a valued member of Congress.”

She also said the timing of when more should be made public “is related not to my curiosity or anybody else’s, but to his health care needs.”

“I was, perhaps I was the only public official to endorse Congressman Jackson when he first ran for office in 1995,” Quinn said. “And he's a good man. … I think at this time, the people of Illinois have good hearts. When somebody is dealing with challenges on their health, we wish them well and we pray for them. I pray for Jesse Jackson Jr. every single day and I think everybody should.”

Pressed by a reporter on whether Jackson should explain his medical condition, Quinn said: "Well, I think you've heard enough. He has some health challenges that he's dealing with right now and I think it's good that we help that person out."

Jackson’s spokesman, Frank Watkins, disclosed the lawmaker’s medical leave more than two weeks after it began, saying he was being treated for “exhaustion.”

Last Thursday, Watkins released a second statement saying Jackson long had grappled privately with “physical and emotional ailments” and would need extended in-patient treatment and continuing medical care afterward.

[For the Record, 12:06 p.m. PST  July 11: This post has been updated with Pelosi's comments on Jackson's condition.]

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