Limbaugh Says Actor Fox Exaggerates Effects of Disease in Ads
By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 24, 2006; 4:42 PM
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh today attacked actor Michael J. Fox for inserting his halting voice into the U.S. Senate campaign in Missouri, suggesting Fox was "acting" in a commercial where he's shown shaking while endorsing the importance of stem cell research.
"He is exaggerating the effects of the disease," Limbaugh told listeners today, encouraging them to go online to watch Fox's commercial, which first aired Oct. 21 in St. Louis during a World Series game. "He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act."
In the commercial, Fox throws his support behind Democratic Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, who supports stem cell research, against Republican James M. Talent. Fox also taped similar ads for other Democratic candidates, including Benjamin L. Cardin in his Senate race against Republican Michael S. Steele in Maryland and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D), who is seeking reelection.
The ads bear witness to the actor's unmistakable decline from Parkinson's, which the actor has suffered from for a long time, and harnesses that physical degeneration into a political message.
"What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans, Americans like me," Fox said in the television spot, which will continue airing throughout Missouri this week.
"This is the only time I've ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has," Limbaugh said. "He can barely control himself."
Limbaugh said Fox could "control himself enough to stay in the frame of the picture" and to keep "his eyes right on the . . . teleprompter. But his head and shoulders are moving all over the place."
"He is acting like his disease is deteriorating because Jim Talent opposes research that would help him get cured," Limbaugh said, adding that Talent only opposes "fetal stem cell research, but not adult."
"This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox," Limbaugh said. "Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."
Fox, who gained fame for his roles in the "Family Ties" and "Spin City" television shows and "Back to the Future" movies, has long been open about his battle with Parkinson's and his support for the research that could lead to a treatment.
But in this ad he shows a noticeable degree of decline not widely seen in previous public appearances. His speech is clear but his head and body are jerky and unsteady.
Besides the ads, Fox has also made plans to appear at events for two Democrats, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Tammy Duckworth, a candidate for Congress from Illinois.
"He wants to take on races and get involved in races that involve a pro stem cell candidate against an anti embryonic stem cell candidate," Fox publicist John Rogers said.
Cardin aides in Maryland said Fox contacted the campaign after seeing news accounts of Steele's position on the research. In February, Steele told members of a Baltimore Jewish group, "Look, you of all folks know what happens when people decide they want to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool."
He later apologized for the remark, which was interpreted as a comparison between embryonic stem cell research and Nazi experimentation.