Pelosi said Wednesday that Jackson should tell his constituents his condition after he has been properly evaluated by doctors. “I hope that we will hear soon that he is on the way to recovery. He’s a valued Member of Congress,” she said.
Other Illinois Democrats, including Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, said earlier this week that it would be better for Jackson to disclose his condition.
The lack of information on Jackson’s condition and whereabouts left his political allies fearing the worst. Chicagoland Democrats said rumors about Jackson have run rampant for days without any word from his aides to alleviate concern.
“Everyone is just kind of scratching their head,” one Illinois Democratic operative said.
Only a very small group of people know Jackson’s whereabouts, leaving virtually all of his staff in the dark.
On Tuesday, Jackson’s office, as well as his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, shot down unsubstantiated claims that the Congressman had tried to commit suicide. In a radio interview, the elder Jackson also invited Durbin to call him to get an update on his son. But on Wednesday, the reverend told reporters covering his group’s annual conference that it was “inappropriate” to ask questions about his son, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Former Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who also attended the conference, told reporters that Durbin, Gutierrez and Hoyer should “back off of Jesse Jr. ... At the proper time, they will know.”
Jackson’s absence comes just a few months after he defeated former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) by a 40-point margin in a March primary.
Halvorson, Jackson’s longtime Southside political nemesis, also called for the Congressman to be more forthcoming. “He’s in the public eye,” she said in a phone interview. “He’s got to do some explaining. He doesn’t get to have a private life. He’s got to start talking.”
Other local Democrats speculated that Jackson could leave Congress altogether as a result of this health incident, although none would say that for the record.
If Jackson leaves Congress, it’s too late to hold a special election. But local Democratic officials could replace his name on the November ballot — and Jackson’s wife would top the list of potential successors. But as long as Jackson remains on the ballot, he’s almost guaranteed re-election in the heavily Democratic 2nd district.
Daniel Newhauser and Jonathan Strong contributed to this report.