Late Wednesday, the office of missing-in-action Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) tried to dampen speculation about his whereabouts, issuing a statement saying that the well-known Chicago Democrat is undergoing treatment for a "mood disorder." But the lack of details about his condition only seemed to intensify the mystery surrounding Jackson's five-week absence from the House. Jackson, son of African-American civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, was once considered a rising star in national politics. Will his murky disappearance hurt his political career? Here, a brief guide:
Where is Rep. Jackson?
His staff isn't revealing his exact whereabouts. Wednesday's statement quoted an unnamed doctor, but Jackson's office declined to say where the congressman is being treated, citing federal privacy laws. According to NBC's Andrea Mitchell, a Jackson family friend says the congressman is at a facility in Arizona. The only certainty is that Jackson, 47, went on medical leave on June 10, after casting his last vote in the House two days earlier.
What is he being treated for?
Over the course of Jackson's absence, his office has made three terse statements. First, it said he was dealing with exhaustion. Then, last week, it explained that he was seeking treatment for "certain physical and emotional ailments" that he has been grappling with privately for a long time. The lack of details fueled rampant speculation about what had happened — some suggested Jackson was recovering from a suicide attempt; Mitchell's source said the congressman had an alcohol problem. Jackson's office tried to clear things up by issuing the latest statement on Wednesday, saying Jackson is being treated for a "mood disorder" and responding well. Jackson's wife texted NBC to say he's "not in rehab."
Has that ended the speculation?
No. In fact, the calls for more details appear to be growing louder. "So, what is the truth?" asks the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. This isn't just a private matter. Jackson is a congressman, and if he can no longer do the job he was elected to do, his constituents deserve to know.
Is Jackson's career over?
Time will tell. Sources close to Jackson are offering reassurances that he'll be ready to return to work, possibly in September. But Jackson's mysterious disappearance is just the latest in a string of problems that have tarnished his image. The House investigated allegations that a Jackson supporter offered former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich donations in exchange for appointing Jackson to President Obama's former Senate seat. Meanwhile, reports of marital problems have surfaced. Jackson is probably toast, Chicago political consultant Don Rose tells The New York Times. His hope of advancing beyond Congress "is pretty well dead, unless something changes and the clouds are removed."
Sources: Chicago Tribune, Daily Beast, NBC, New York Times, NPR
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Don't argue about politics this Thanksgiving. Just don't.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- How to survive a spaceship disaster
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week