Jackson camp on NY Post’s Jesse, Jr. seat switch story: ‘false’, ‘absurd’

Jesse Jackson and his son.

Jesse Jackson and his son attend the film premiere. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Family and staffers to Chicago Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. strongly refuted a New York Post report, which quoted unnamed sources as saying Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. is working behind-the-scenes to place his younger son Jonathan in Jackson, Jr.’s congressional seat.

The Post claims that the elder Jackson has essentially taken over his son’s congressional office, at a time when Jackson, Jr. remains hospitalized in the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, for what his family says are “debilitating” gastrointestinal issues and clinical depression. The Post also asserts that Jackson, Sr. wants his younger son to take over the seat in part because he would wield more influence over the office if his more independent elder son stepped aside.

Speaking to theGrio on Wednesday, the Jackson camp put on a full-court defense, calling the story “false,” “absurd” and “a fabrication.”

“The story in the Post is false,” the congressman’s chief of staff, Rick Bryant, told theGrio. “Congressman Jackson is running for re-election. He won a primary. He is gearing up to run. All of his supporters are still behind him 100 percent.” Bryant also pushed back against the Post’s sources, who claim Rev. Jackson is essentially running his son’s congressional office.

“They’re so off base, I don’t know where to begin,” Bryant said. “Reverend Jackson has not taken over [Jackson, Jr.'s] office, he’s not managing our media. He has nothing whatsoever to do with running our office. The whole thing is totally absurd.”

Regarding the Post, he added: “I have no idea who their sources are, but they are totally unreliable [and] misinformed.”

Bryant said Jackson, Jr. has no plans to vacate his seat, and that he will be back on the campaign trail “when the doctors feel it’s appropriate. I hope soon.” He last spoke with Jackson, Jr. on Tuesday, and related that the representative has spoken with Democratic congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. to keep them informed about his plans.

Both Bryant and Kevin Lampe — a spokesman for the Jackson re-election campaign and for Jackson’s wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson — expressed confidence that the congressman will win re-election in November, even given his time off from the campaign trail. Jackson handily won a March primary, and his district is 88 percent Democratic.

“The congressman is getting better,” Lampe told theGrio. “The congressman will be returning to work as soon as he’s better. The campaign is moving forward.”

Lampe and Bryant also shot down a new rumor that emerged on Wednesday: that Sandi Jackson may be preparing to run for her husband’s seat, if his condition does not improve.

Lampe said there has been no talk of Sandi Jackson, who is also her husband’s campaign manager, stepping into the role of candidate. “We had a very successful primary [in March],” Lampe said of Jackson, Jr.’s campaign under his wife’s leadership. “We won with 72 percent of the vote under her direction.”

Sources also tell theGrio that it wouldn’t be simple for anyone, whether it was Jackson, Sr. or someone else, to slot a new candidate into Jesse, Jr.’s place. He would have to withdraw his name from the race; then local Democratic Party officials would choose another candidate for the ballot.

Jackson, Sr. lashed out at the Post story, which he insisted is “not remotely true.”

“It’s unfortunate that they would take a story and run with it without foundation,” Rev. Jackson told theGrio. “I have not been to Jesse’s office… I have no attached relationship with that office. It’s not true.”

Jackson said his family has “focused exclusively on the congressman’s health and his recovery, and on his regaining his strength. And people for the most part have been very respectful of that process taking place.”

As for his younger son, Jackson, Sr. said: “Jonathan is a businessman, who doesn’t have a remote interest in politics.”

The civil rights activist added that the idea that either he or Jonathan would attempt to push Jesse, Jr. out of his congressional seat, or “replace” him with a family member is “a fabrication. It’s unfair, and it’s untrue.”

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport