CHICAGO -- Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is suffering from debilitating depression and even collapsed at his home in Washington two months ago, his wife said in an interview published Saturday that revealed new details about his secretive leave of absence.
"No, no, none of that is true," she said.
The Chicago Democrat and son of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson has been off the job for nearly eight weeks. Throughout that time, his office has released little information, and only revealed his whereabouts a week ago, when Jackson was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. In that announcement, Jackson's office said he was undergoing "extensive inpatient evaluation for depression and gastrointestinal issues."
Sandi Jackson said her husband collapsed at their home in Washington on June 10 while she was in Chicago.
"His collapse was D-Day for us," she told Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, adding that her husband had become "completely debilitated by depression."
The congressman's father and his brother Yusef took him to George Washington hospital, she said.
"He called and told me not to worry, but it was obvious he was suffering from a form of depression," Mrs. Jackson said. "So Yusef took him at my suggestion to the Sierra Tucson Treatment Center in Arizona, where they specialize in mental health."
She said it was there that a question arose about whether the depression could be "due to a lack of nutrients" and linked to a 2004 procedure he underwent to help him lose weight.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., are considering that possibility, she said.
"They are now trying to find out if his depression, which has not yet been diagnosed as a bipolar disorder, is connected to the weight-loss surgery. We don't know," she said. "Jesse is now gaining weight and eating and feeling better in that sense, but he is still very depressed."
The timing of Jackson's medical leave has raised questions, in part because Jackson is facing an ethics investigation in the U.S. House connected to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that Jackson was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for the then-governor appointing him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.
Jackson was not charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
Days before Jackson's office announced his leave, a fundraiser and family friend also involved in the probe, Raghuveer Nayak, was arrested and charged with unrelated medical fraud charges.
But Mrs. Jackson said her husband's family and staff had already decided to impose a news blackout at the start of his treatment "to enable him to heal," and she said her husband isn't aware of Nayak's arrest.
"He doesn't know anything about the indictment," she said.
Sandi Jackson could not say when her husband might return to work.
"I fully expect him to return to work, but not a day before the doctor says it's OK. That's the word we are waiting for," she said.
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President Franklin D. Roosevelt favors creating national health insurance amid the Great Depression but decides to push for Social Security first. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Roosevelt establishes wage and price controls during World War II. Businesses can't attract workers with higher pay so they compete through added benefits, including health insurance, which grows into a workplace perk. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
President Harry Truman calls on Congress to create a national insurance program for those who pay voluntary fees. The American Medical Association denounces the idea as "socialized medicine" and it goes nowhere. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
John F. Kennedy makes health care a major campaign issue but as president can't get a plan for the elderly through Congress. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
President Lyndon B. Johnson's legendary arm-twisting and a Congress dominated by his fellow Democrats lead to creation of two landmark government health programs: Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
President Richard Nixon wants to require employers to cover their workers and create federal subsidies to help everyone else buy private insurance. The Watergate scandal intervenes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
President Jimmy Carter pushes a mandatory national health plan, but economic recession helps push it aside. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
President Ronald Reagan signs COBRA, a requirement that employers let former workers stay on the company health plan for 18 months after leaving a job, with workers bearing the cost. (MIKE SARGENT/AFP/Getty Images)
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President Bill Clinton puts first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in charge of developing what becomes a 1,300-page plan for universal coverage. It requires businesses to cover their workers and mandates that everyone have health insurance. The plan meets Republican opposition, divides Democrats and comes under a firestorm of lobbying from businesses and the health care industry. It dies in the Senate. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Clinton signs bipartisan legislation creating a state-federal program to provide coverage for millions of children in families of modest means whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid. (JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President George W. Bush persuades Congress to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in a major expansion of the program for older people. (STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes a sweeping health care plan in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She loses to Obama, who has a less comprehensive plan. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
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With no Republican support, Congress passes the measure, designed to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million uninsured people. Republican opponents scorned the law as "Obamacare." (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
On a campaign tour in the Midwest, Obama himself embraces the term "Obamacare" and says the law shows "I do care." (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)