Jesse Jackson Admits Affair, Illegitimate Child

Hurts Jackson’s Credibility

Observers say even though Jackson came forward himself, the revelation may impair his effectiveness.

"It really damages the Rev. Jackson's credibility as a role model for young people, among other things," Clarence Page, a columnist for The Chicago Tribune, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

"His biggest problem is with non-blacks, with mainstream America," Page said. "I think the black community can separate his personal from his public life, but his effectiveness as a mainstream spokesman has been more or less been neutralized."

Some of Jackson's public commitments are now in question. Scanlon says he will honor some obligations, but in his statement Jackson indicated he may withdraw from the limelight for a time.

"I will be taking some time off to revive my spirit and reconnect with my family before I return to my public ministry," he said.

Damage to Agenda?

ABCNEWS political director Mark Halperin says this personal episode will detract from Jackson's political agenda.

"That clearly will, in the short term, take him to some extent out of the very visible role as a public spokesman for causes in which he believes," Halperin says. "He's going to take time from that. Long term, we'll have to see if Rev. Jackson has the time and the credibility in some quarters to come back and talk about the full range of issues in which he's worked."

Jackson has been a very public voice in the battle to block the confirmation of John Ashcroft as President-elect Bush's attorney general.

He also was scheduled to speak at a protest march in Tallahassee on Saturday to correspond with Bush's inauguration. Jackson and many other blacks are angry about what they claim was the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida, where the alleged disenfranchisement may have cost Democrat Al Gore the election.

Last August, Clinton awarded Jackson the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. At that time, Jackson lavished praise on his wife and children for supporting him in his long civil rights career.

ABCNEWS' Bettina Gregory in Washington, ABCNEWS' Kendra Gahagan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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