"I think it's important to say that I love my husband very much, that's the first thing," Jackson said in her first public statement since her husband's office made an announcement Monday that he was taking a leave of absence. "The second thing is, as a wife, my primary concern is that of my children. I just want to make sure they're taken care of and provided for. And we're just going to continue doing the good work that we're doing here in the city of Chicago."
Jackson spoke to a crowd of reporters who had been tracking her around City Hall for much of the morning. She took no questions after her statement. After speaking, Jackson left City Hall, escorted by City Council staff.
The congressman's office announced on Monday that the veteran Democratic congressman has been on medical leave for the past two weeks and is being treated for exhaustion.
Jackson Jr.'s aides have declined to say where the 17-year Illinois congressman’s office is or when he is expected to return.
The statement Monday was the first public disclosure that Jackson has been on medical leave since June 10. During that time, Jackson’s office has issued at least 10 news releases, including a statement two days after he took medical leave in which he was quoted commending officials in south suburban Crete for withdrawing support for an immigration detention center.
Asked why Jackson’s office waited two weeks to tell his constituents about his absence, spokesman Frank Watkins told the Tribune that the lack of disclosure was a “family request.”
Just last week, a longtime friend of Jackson’s, Raghuveer Nayak, was arrested on federal fraud charges involving Nayak’s surgical centers. Nayak was at the center of the U.S. Senate seat scandal that sent former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to prison.
Jackson, 47, who has distanced himself from Nayak, remains under a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that Nayak offered Blagojevich up to $6 million in campaign cash to make the congressman President Barack Obama’s successor in the U.S. Senate.
Nayak had told federal investigators that Jackson asked him to raise campaign money for Blagojevich in hopes the then-governor would appoint Jackson to the seat, sources familiar with the investigation have told the Tribune. Jackson has denied any knowledge of fundraising in exchange for the appointment and has said he expects to be vindicated by the ethics panel.
Jackson also has said he did not violate House ethics rules when he had Nayak buy a plane ticket for a woman with whom the congressman had a secret relationship. Jackson has referred to that as a “private and personal matter.”
Despite the controversies, Jackson in March handily won a Democratic primary challenge from former one-term Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete.
House records show Jackson, who prides himself on his strong voting attendance, last voted about noon on Friday, June 8. The House was in recess the next week, and the next week Jackson was listed as “not voting” for more than 30 House votes.
Seven years ago, Jackson took even longer to publicly disclose medical treatment. In March 2005, he ended weeks of speculation by revealing that his trimmed-down figure was the result of weight-loss surgery performed about three months earlier. Jackson underwent a duodenal switch, described as a minimally invasive surgery that involves cutting out a part of a patient’s stomach.