Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s wife finally opened up about what has driven her husband into seclusion for almost two months, painting a picture of a man crippled by depression and other medical problems.
Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson told the Chicago Sun-Times that her husband had a “collapse” from exhaustion in early June at his home in Washington, D.C. That led to a stint of treatment in Arizona followed by one in Minnesota, where he is now trying to recover with the hope of possibly returning to Congress.
“What I can tell you is my husband has his good days and bad days and they are increasing his depression medication to therapeutic levels,” she told the newspaper. “Jesse is now gaining weight and eating and feeling better in that sense, but he is still very depressed.”
It all began on June 10, when the Illinois Democrat phoned his father, the famous civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, and told him he “couldn’t take another step,” Sandi Jackson said.
His father and brother quickly took him to nearby George Washington University Hospital, where it was clear he was suffering from depression.
From there, Jackson was referred to the Sierra Tucson treatment center in Arizona. The facility specializes in therapy for drug addiction, alcoholism, depression and other mental health issues and has treated numerous celebrities and high-profile figures over the years.
All the while, Sandi Jackson said, the people closest to the congressman imposed a “news blackout,” working to keep his whereabouts and condition a secret. The first word that anything was wrong came from his office on June 25, more than two weeks after his “collapse.” It said very little other than that he was taking medical leave from Congress and was suffering from exhaustion.
She said doctors in Arizona soon thought there may be a link between the Democrat’s depression and a weight-loss surgery he had a few years ago, so they referred him to specialists with the renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He has been staying there since late last month. His wife and children have been visiting him and keeping in daily contact.
“I fully expect him to return to work, but not a day before the doctor says it’s OK,” Sandi Jackson said.
She also dismissed the idea that her husband’s condition is connected to the criminal charges against his longtime friend and former fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak.
“He doesn’t know anything about the indictment,” she said.
Nayak had reportedly connected the congressman to the corruption scandal that sent former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison earlier this year. The fundraiser was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges in an unrelated case on June 20. Days later was when Jackson’s office announced his leave of absence from Congress. Jackson has denied any wrongdoing.
The entire piece by Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed can be read here.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com