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Damn Spots

Michael J. Fox might just do a hell of an impression of a guy with severe Parkinson's. Or so says Rush Limbaugh, who claimed Fox was "either off his medication or acting" in an ad for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill. "In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking. And it's purely an act," said Limbaugh. In the ad, Fox backs McCaskill's support for embryonic stem cell research and criticizes her opponent's position. You can watch it by clicking on the box.

Limbaugh subsequently stepped back from the comment. "All I'm saying is I've never seen him the way he appears in this commercial for Claire McCaskill," he said. "So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act, especially since people are telling me they have seen him this way on other interviews and in other television appearances."

Here's what William J. Weiner M.D., professor and chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, told the New Republic on the matter:

What you are seeing on the video is side effects of the medication. He has to take that medication to sit there and talk to you like that. ... He's not over-dramatizing. ... [Limbaugh] is revealing his ignorance of Parkinson's disease, because people with Parkinson's don't look like that at all when they're not taking their medication. They look stiff, and frozen, and don't move at all. ... People with Parkinson's, when they've had the disease for awhile, are in this bind, where if they don't take any medication, they can be stiff and hardly able to talk. And if they do take their medication, so they can talk, they get all of this movement, like what you see in the ad.
The Fox ad has created quite a stir even before Limbaugh's comments. A response to the spot, focused primarily on a proposed amendment to the state constitution regarding stem cell research, has shown up on Youtube. It features Jim "Jesus" Caviezel, who speaks in Aramaic as the ad opens, Kurt Warner, Patricia Heaton, and others, and you can watch it here.

In other ad news, some are calling this spot from the Republican National Committee, which criticizes Tennessee Democratic Senate Candidate Harold Ford, racist. In the spot – which you really should watch – a blond woman says, somewhat implausibly, "I met Harold at the Playboy Party." At the end, she looks at the camera and says "Harold, call me!" And that's just some of the fun to be found.

As far as perceived racism goes, however, that spot has nothing on this old chestnut. The Jesse Helms attack ad on Harvey Gantt from 1990 opens like this: "You needed that job, and you were the best qualified, but they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota. Is that really fair?"

Back to the Fox ad, which continues to attract criticism. "There are some inaccuracies in the ad that need to be debated," said Sean Hannity. "Unfortunately he wants to create an impression where Republicans don't care about the health of people." Here's a Youtuber's response to the spot. Limbaugh maintains that "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democrat politician."

In the New York Times, Alessandra Stanley argues that the ad – which she calls "as disturbing — and arresting — as a hostage video from Iraq" – represents one of the few times that Democrats have put out an ad that successfully appeals to people's emotions. "In the recent past, it has been the Republican advertisements that have tended to be more bold and more memorable: the Willie Horton advertisements that George Bush used against Michael S. Dukakis in 1988 or the specter of stalking wolves that his son, George W. Bush, used to make Senator John Kerry seem weak on terrorism," she writes. "Democrats usually have to go back to 1964 and Lyndon B. Johnson's 'Daisy' attack on Barry Goldwater to find comparably vivid ads. Until now, that is."

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