Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Acting or Not...

There's a controversy over recent ads by the Democratic Party fueled by criticism from Rush Limbaugh. Personally, I have no clue if Limbaugh is right or not, and I don't think it matters. The issue is simple: Michael J. Fox, a great actor who is suffering from the terrible disease of Parkinson's, appeared in ads promoting stem cell research and claiming that the GOP is against it in the states in which it airs. This doesn't seem to be true - Missouri Senator Jim Talent (R) has supported research as long as it doesn't include cloning or destroying a human embryo, which is why he's against a current amendment, as it does include cloning. But the controversy is over whether Fox is acting in the commercials - while we all know he has Parkinson's, is he acting the symptoms for the commercials to bring in greater sympathy and to draw voters? After all, he's acted in TV shows as recently as this year without the ill effects, which are "on and off". Limbaugh thinks that he's acting for the commercials (though later he said he could be mistaken).

To me, I have no clue if he's acting or not. I'm inclined to believe that he is not, but that brings a greater question to my mind. The ill effects of Parkinson's (the shaking, etc.) are "on and off". Did the Democrats wait until Fox was suffering to film the commercial, just to score political points? Fox has been an amazing spokesman for sufferers of Parkinson's for years - and without the shaking. I still remember the very simple but powerful ads they used to show during Spin City reruns late at night - he would say his piece and sit there, unmoving, staring at the camera. It just seems wrong to try and wait for a time where he can't control his shaking to film the commercial solely for political points, especially as he's noted the difficulty acting and how painful it is when he is shaking. Throw in the false claims of the ads, and it just seems that the Democrats are sinking to deep lows in their quest for Congress in some races around the country.

They could have easily run a solid ad with Fox claiming that Democrats are stronger supporters of greater forms of stem cell research. The GOP would have countered that they are against certain forms of research because of moral issues. Both would have been true, and would have allowed voters to make their own decisions. Instead, these ads have twisted the debate from what it should be about. It's sad.


  1. I saw Michael J. Fox a while back on "Inside the Actors Studio" and I remember him discussing that he can somewhat control his movements while he is on the medications, but it is almost impossible when he does not. I imagine he skipped the dosage before filming the ad, as he did a different time when he testified before Congress. I don't think it is such a bad thing. If people only see what it's like on the medication then they won't necessarily understand what the disease is really like. If this is needed to educate people then I don't think it is wrong. Yes Fox has an agenda, but can we really say it is a bad one?

  2. Did the Democrats wait until Fox was suffering to film the commercial, just to score political points? Fox has been an amazing spokesman for sufferers of Parkinson's for years - and without the shaking.


    I have a problem with this and that is the suggestion that the Democrats waited for Fox to suffer more to film this.

    That is not fair and it obscures the issues.

    But let me throw something out. We all have good days and bad days. Fox could have been having a very bad day, we don't know.

    I am not a doctor, but my understanding is that Parkinsons gets progressively worse. If that is the case it would make sense that Fox might look worse today than he did in the past.

    Regardless, I find the attack on him to be in poor taste.

    People can disagree and claim that the GOP supports Stem Cell research without this kind of nonsense.

  3. Sheva - That's part of my question. Is it okay to cause yourself to be in worse straits to score political points? If he said to Congress, "This is what I am like off my meds", that's legitimate. If he's pretending that it's like that all the time, with or without medication, that's deception.

    Jack - I understand Parkinson's gets worse. However, he wasn't like this pretty recently. I think Sheva's explanation makes a lot of sense, so the Q changes a bit: Is that a legitimate way to make a point, by passing on medication to make the symptoms that much worse? I don't know.

    I do think that the attack on him is in poor taste as well, as we have no clue as to whether he was acting or not. It does sound like Limbaugh is spending more time on the content of the ad, though, which is a legitimate attack.

  4. Missouri Senator Jim Talent (R) has supported research as long as it doesn't include cloning or destroying a human embryo

    EVERYBODY supports research as long as it doesn't include cloning or destroying a human embryo. The whole debate is about embryonic stem cells.

    What Fox said was, "Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research." (Watch it here.) This is clearly true, so I don't understand what your point is.

    As for whether he was faking it, I don't see any reason to think he was and I certainly don't see how Limbaugh or Hannity could know he is. Parkinson's progresses over time, of course. Fox retired from acting because of it.

  5. If someone wants to attack the ad because they are either staunch Republicans or just staunchly against any form of stem cell research, that is fine. However, Michael J. Fox has every right to do the ad...and in my opinion to skip his meds...because his goal is a cure for Parkisnons. They are his own symptoms and he can use them if he wants to. I have no problem with him at all. (Aside...who can not love Alex P Keaton?)

  6. As the daughter of someone suffering from Parkinsons, I think this is a very cruel accusation. And in advanced Parkinsons, the symptoms are not so much on and off again, but almost always present. I've seem Michael J. Fox on other shows recently, and his Parkinson's seems to be very advanced. He's in very bad condition. It's no act. Also, medication for Parkinson's is not a simple matter. The patient needs to be evaluated frequently to adjust dosage and see what medicines he can handle. It's not a simple matter of taking or not taking your pills -- the pills themselves don't always work.

  7. JA - It's clearly NOT true, because he does support stem cell research. The implication is that he simply doesn't want them to try and do anything, when he simply doesn't want to sacrifice certain moral standards to do so.

    Sheva - I hear the argument, but I'm not sure I agree. Can anyone do anything to themselves to make it look better for the cameras?

  8. Miriam L - Thanks for the input. I honestly don't know much enough about Parkinson's, and I agree the accusation seems to be really off-base.

  9. ...I'm questioning (at this point) whether it's right to purposely not take your pills (as apparently Fox did before Congress, according to Sheva) to make a commercial and make it seem like this is always how it is.

  10. What Rush said was terrible. Plus, a pill popper should mind his stone throwing.

  11. I don't know if it is just a matter of taking a pill or not, but I clearly remember him stating that when he testified before Congress he wanted them to understand the severity of the disease he did not take all the meds. What "taking the meds" is exactly I don't know, but you get the point.

  12. JA - It's clearly NOT true, because he does support stem cell research. The implication is that he simply doesn't want them to try and do anything, when he simply doesn't want to sacrifice certain moral standards to do so.

    EXPANDING. EXPANDING. Fox points out that Talent is opposed to expanding stem cell research. Specifically, he's referring to the Missouri stem cell amendment which is on the 2006 ballot, which Talent opposes.

  13. CE - True!

    Sheva - Thanks.

    JA - Ah, misunderstood you. I think Talent would argue that he's not against expanding, just against this expansion because of what it involves. There's quite a difference there.

  14. Ok, he was acting, big deal.

    We know he has parkinsons.
    We know what parkinsons symptoms look like
    So why is it relevant to the intent, object and message of the ad if he was acting?

  15. The bottom line is the message, not the method of presenting it.

  16. If you take the whole Michael J Fox out of this equation and just judge the ad on the script it's a misleading piece.

    Saying he is against expanding the program without explaining what the expansion is is misleading. It's also misleading to say ... the democratic candidate wants to cure this illness ... on the other hand .. the republican candidate wants to criminalize it ... it's just a scare tactic ad .. and the use of a person this disabled is just an attempt to tug on someone's emotions without properly researching the candidates true stances on these topics.

    It's the same as CNN showing soldiers being killed in action, just to elicit an emotional response from voters, when we all know solders are dying ... they just want votes to see it and get emotional about it.

    In the end it doesn't matter if he faked it or not, because the ad is made solely with the intention of making people vote on an issue simply because this lovable TV actor is suffering and he says its the evil republican guys fault.

  17. the stupidity of limbaugh beasides for shaking and making fun of him was that the shaking in hte commercial was because he DID take his medicine and that is the effect it has.

  18. Jack, this particular issue aside (I have no personal opinion on it, for lack of knowledge), I think the way the message is carried is almost as important as the message itself. There are definitely unethical ways of getting a message across, if they are done in bad faith, etc.

  19. My wife tells me that Michael Fox admits that he went off his meds before he testified. From what she heard, it was intentional and for effect.

    However the issue is being fudged a lot.

    Despite the claims to the contrary embryonic stem cells have yet to be made into any sort of therapy. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, have a track record. The promise of embryonic stem cells has not been realized, yet.

    It's also interesting to read Charles Krauthammer's harsh criticism of John Edwards from 2 years ago. He accused Edwards of raising false hopes to those, like him, are searching for a cure and points out another recent "cure" that didn't work.
    For the record, I don't buy Limbaugh explanation that he was trying to demonstrate how Fox looked. He was mocking him. Tasteless.

  20. from the American Thinker

    The plain fact is that embryonic stem cell research is proving to be a bust. There are currently 72 therapies showing human benefits using adult stem cells and zero using embryonic stem cells. Scientifically-minded readers can review this medical journal article [.pdf] on the status of adult stem cell research. Adult stem cell therapies are already being advertised and promoted while no such treatments are even remotely in prospect for embryonic stem cell research.

    The fact is that adult stem cells have already produced remarkable cures, whereas embryonic stem cells have failed...

    via Postwatch

  21. Irina,

    I understand what you are saying, but I don't have a problem with how Michael J.Fox delivered his message.