An emotionally raw Jesse Jackson Jr. recently stated that he feels “attacked from all angles” — by a wife in Washington, D.C., who wants his “whole disability check” in their bitter divorce case and by the Chicago media that think he “doesn’t even deserve a disability check.”
Speaking to the media in Chicago for the first time since he and his wife were released from federal prison for looting his campaign fund, Jackson said he deserved the $138,400 a year in federal workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability Insurance payments he has been receiving since he quit Congress to deal with mental health issues.
“I earned it,” he said. “I still meet with professional counselors on a regular basis.”
The disability payments have become a topic of controversy after they were detailed in a recent divorce court filing and reported in the Chicago Tribune. An ethics expert called for them to be federally investigated, calling the workers’ comp payments to a convicted felon “troubling” and saying it wasn’t clear how Jackson’s work as a congressman led to his bipolar disorder.
But that wasn’t all that got Jackson fired up. In a bizarre section of a 10-minute speech he gave outside divorce court, he also said last month he had tried to subpoena former police Supt. Garry McCarthy and two other men in his divorce case “because I don’t want my children to ever walk through a grocery store line and see what I found — and look at what we know exists.”
Jackson’s claim that he wanted to keep what he knows about McCarthy, McCarthy’s former business partner, Richard Simon, and former Chicago cop James Love, out of the “tabloids” was hard to square with his decision to subpoena the three men last month — prompting a media feeding frenzy about their possible involvement in his marriage.
That innuendo has been robustly and repeatedly denied by McCarthy and the other men, and criticized as “harassment” by Sandi Jackson’s lawyers. Simon earlier this month filed an affidavit swearing that his only interactions with the Jacksons were a single meeting and a 60-second phone call in which Jesse Jackson asked him if he knew his wife.
Jackson, though, asked the media and the Chicago public to go easy on him through what he said he hopes is his “final public” ordeal.
Wearing a Batman belt with his somber business suit, he apologized to his former constituents for having “erred profoundly” when he used his campaign funds to illegally buy luxuries including a fedora hat that once belonged to pop legend Michael Jackson. He described the strains his incarceration has placed on his marriage and his family as “very difficult.”
“Maybe if my name were not Jesse Jackson Jr. and maybe if I wasn’t your former representative in the Congress of the United States, maybe I could walk in and out of this building like other families who have this struggle and don’t have to read about it in the morning.”
But he added, “I don’t get to run from it or hide from it because of who I am.”
The couple’s fight over jurisdiction and money isn’t getting any friendlier. After Jesse Jackson initially filed for divorce in Chicago late last year while Sandi Jackson was still in prison, she filed a counter suit in the nation’s capital.
Jackson said he feels “fantastic” despite his divorce, his prison time, his battle with bipolar disorder and his divorce. He described meeting and learning from less fortunate prison inmates — including one who he said told him, “Jackson, get out of bed. I don’t know what you’re complaining about. My Daddy set me on fire” — as “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
But he acknowledged, “There are up and down days.”
“I’m near bankruptcy right now,” he said. “I paid the government back and I also paid with my time, and my flesh and blood in an institution. And now I’m paying with my marriage because it did not survive this process, and sometimes it feels like it just doesn’t end.”