During the October 26 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh “apologize[d]” for being “wrong” in “speculat[ing]” that actor Michael J. Fox either “didn't take his medication or he was acting” in a recent campaign advertisement for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, but then immediately returned to attacking Fox by baselessly accusing him of intentionally taking too much medication to induce the tremors visible in the ad. Highlighting an October 25 interview Fox gave on NBC's Access Hollywood, during which, Limbaugh stated, Fox “himself said he took too much medication” before shooting the McCaskill ad, Limbaugh declared: “He didn't do that when he goes on Boston Legal, but it happened for the taping of this ad; and I think the reason for that is so you would really, really hate Republicans." In fact, while Fox acknowledged on Access Hollywood that his tremors were a result of having taken “too much medication,” he did not say he had intentionally done so. Indeed, after Limbaugh's remark, Fox appeared on the October 26 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and confirmed that the tremors he had experienced during the taping of the ad occurred because it is difficult to “calculate” the correct dosage of medication and, "[s]ometimes, it kicks in too hard."
Additionally, Limbaugh claimed that the media have engaged in “an irresponsible misuse of video from my ditto cam” in that “many cable outlets have taken that snippet of video," in which Limbaugh is mimicking Fox's tremors in the McCaskill ad, “and they're speeding it up, I am told,” “to make [Limbaugh's impression] look even more exaggerated to fulfill their claim that” Limbaugh was “making fun of Fox.” Limbaugh declared that he was merely “try[ing] to describe for viewers on my ditto cam what I had seen” in the ad.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, on the October 23 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh, noting that Fox is “moving all around and shaking” in the ad, declared: “And it's purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has.” While making this characterization, Limbaugh imitated Fox's involuntary movements in the ad. Limbaugh added that “this is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting, one of the two.” Later in the broadcast, Limbaugh stated, “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.”
On October 26, Limbaugh “apologize[d]” after airing a clip of Fox's interview on Access Hollywood, in which Fox stated: “The symptoms that I had in the interview or the ad that I did, that's called dyskinesia. That's actually from taking too much medication." But later in the broadcast, Limbaugh asserted that "[t]here's no question about it," Fox's ad “is a planned, late-stages of the campaign tactic. ... These ads are scripted by Democrat [sic] campaigns. ... And [McCaskill's campaign] worked with Michael J. Fox on deciding how they wanted him to appear. ...They wanted it to appear this way. ... You know, I want to stress this. They wanted it to appear this way.”
Fox further clarified the effects of his medication during his interview with anchor Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News. Fox explained that "[s]ometimes," the medication “kicks in too hard, and then you get what's called dyskinesia, which is that rocking motion that I had when I did the commercial.” He added that “the notion that you could calculate it for effect is -- you know, people with Parkinson's out there were just kind of going, 'Yeah, would that we could.'”
From the October 26 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: We had a call yesterday, and I dealt with this yesterday, and I will deal with it again today as often as I have to, because there is an irresponsible charge, and an irresponsible misuse of video from my ditto cam here -- by the way, welcome to all of you watching on the ditto cam today -- there is an irresponsible charge that I was making fun of Michael J. Fox, and that I said Michael J. Fox was faking it. Neither of those two charges have any foundation of truth whatsoever and, yet, they continue to be leveled and they continue to be distorted and amplified upon.
I'll explain why in the opening monologue, but I just -- I just want to tell you, as I told the woman from Maryland, in fact, who called yesterday and said she had heard that I was making fun of Fox and that she had seen video of me imitating his gyrations and movements in the ad that he had done for Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
Here -- and by the way, many cable outlets have taken that snippet of video from the ditto cam and they're speeding it up, I am told. Now, I haven't seen it, but I've been inundated with emails from people who say, “Rush, it's unconscionable what they're doing. They're speeding it up to make it look even more exaggerated to fulfill their claim that you are making fun of Fox.” I'll take you through this step by step. Here's what happened.
I'm reading The Drudge Report -- no, I think it's, actually, it's after the show had started. I'm not even sure when -- one day, and then there's the link to the Michael J. Fox video and the word “controversy” attached to it, so I click on it, and I watch it. Now, I've seen Michael J. Fox recently on television in a number of roles, on the show Boston Legal, which I love, and I've seen Michael J. Fox interviewed, and I've never seen him the way I saw him in this ad. Never. I've seen Parkinson's disease sufferers. I know a couple. And I'd never seen this. I just had never seen it.
I run a radio show here, and I have a camera right there. I'm pointing to it. Subscribers to my website can watch the program, and hundreds of thousands do each and every day. So, in the process of describing for them -- after all, I am a reporter [ahem] -- in the process of describing what I was watching, it is a shock, as you've all seen it, it's shocking; it's unbelievable. You don't see this kind of thing everyday, particularly in a television commercial -- not even a public service announcement for the cause that might be involved do you see something like this. And you couple that with the fact that I'd never seen Michael J. Fox in this way, I began to try to describe for viewers on my ditto cam what I had seen.
Now, anybody who listens to me describe what I saw would know this. It is a purposeful attempt to smear. I mean, that's -- I'm not -- I'm not complaining because that's the league that we all play in here, folks, and I don't whine or moan about anything, but I am going to correct the record here because this is something that's now had a lifespan of two days -- that I'm making fun of Michael J. Fox. I would no more do that than I would make fun of anybody who suffers a disease about which and over which they have no -- I wouldn't make fun of anybody with a -- that is beneath me, and it's not -- there's no evidence and history of it on this program at all, or in my behavior as a human being and, yet, it's out there.
And the people who culled that video could easily listen to the audio that accompanied it and would easily know and do know precisely what I was doing. And yet, it is being used for the express purpose of distorting and smearing for an audience that doesn't listen to this program.
LIMBAUGH: But there it is again -- exaggerating or faking. Never once did I use the word “fake!” It's very simple what I said, and the context is, I am stunned. I have never seen Michael J. Fox this way, I know he's got Parkinson's disease, and I'm saying what -- if I know it's a political ad, and I know it's to benefit Democrats. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. The neurons in my fertile brain start firing, and I say, “You know, he's either exaggerating the symptoms or he hasn't taken his medication.” Either/or. That has become: “He's faking it,” and “I was making fun of it.”
Since then, and later in that program in the next sound bite, after consulting a bunch of research, found out that he'd written in his own book that he indeed goes off or manipulates his medication when he does public appearances, which I've said, countless times this week, is fine with me. He's tried to raise consciousness before members of Congress to get funding for research into the disease. I understand how powerful that is. Now, it shows up in a political ad for a series of Democrat [sic] candidates around the country, two weeks before the election -- sorry, flak -- folks, I'm a political animal and red flags raised immediately.
LIMBAUGH: And let me admit something now, since we played the audio sound bite. In fact, let's -- let's go get it. Number seven -- can you play number seven again? 'Cause I want to make an apology here. You have number seven from the audio sound bite roster ready to go? All right, let 'er rip.
FOX [audio clip]: The symptoms that I had in the ad that I did, they're called dyskinesia, and that's actually from too much medication.
LIMBAUGH: OK. I need to apologize. I was wrong, because I speculated he either didn't take his medication or he was acting -- never said the word “faking.” Now, if you've got -- if you people on the left want to equate acting with faking, I mean, go ahead. George Clooney would be a faker. All your favorite actors -- we'll call them fakers. I never used the word.
But I was wrong. He did take his medications, and now, he took too much medication. The point is, he did something differently to appear in this ad than when he appears on Boston Legal. And that was my first human reaction -- “Whoa! I've never seen this! I have not seen this before.” Now, I gather from the past three days that we are to believe that this is the normal condition that poor Mr. Fox has to live with each and every day. That's the impression that they're leaving, is it not? That this is how his life is now.
But he himself said he took too much medication. He didn't do that when he goes on Boston Legal, but it happened for the taping of this ad; and I think the reason for that is so you would really, really hate Republicans, because Republicans don't want to cure it. Jim Talent doesn't care; Michael Steele doesn't care; nobody in the Republican Party cares. They don't want to cure these things. They're happy, in fact, to see people suffer like Mr. Fox is in his ad.
CALLER: And --
LIMBAUGH: And if you use too little, what happens?
CALLER: And if you -- the same thing.
LIMBAUGH: OK. Well, here's -- here's -- I'm -- I think I mentioned this yesterday. I'm being inundated with emails of doctors, and neurosurgeons, and a number of people, and I don't often share emails because anybody can write and claim to be anybody and anything. So, these emails run the gamut.
But I'm hearing what you have said -- too much medication -- and Michael Fox admitted that he had too much medication when he shot the -- all I know is that the way he appears in the ad, I've never seen him anywhere else. In fact, when he went up to do the public appearance for Tammy Duckworth, he didn't appear that way with her as he does in the ads.
We observe what we observe, ladies and gentlemen, and as I said mere moments ago, and I will happily repeat it -- I apologize for saying he didn't take his meds. Instead, he took too much medication. But he didn't do this when he went on Boston Legal, and he didn't do this when he was with Tammy Duckworth later -- or earlier this week on a public appearance, fundraiser.
LIMBAUGH: Let me tell you people something about how these political campaign ads are put together. They don't just happen. Like Claire McCaskill is saying that she was minding her own busy -- business one day, when she was trying to figure out how to destroy Jim Talent when her phone rang. And on the other end was either Michael J. Fox or his foundation offering to help and Claire said, “Hey, hey, hey, get on in here.”
And they sat down; put together an ad. Just -- it happened spontaneously like -- folks, this ad's running in Maryland. It's gonna run in Virginia. It's running in Wisconsin. This is a planned, late-stages of the campaign tactic. There's no question about it.
These are not ads by some nonprofit health-related organization. They are ads paid for by the Democrat [sic] campaigns of the various senators for whom these ads are running. These ads are scripted by Democrat campaigns.
Democrat campaigns hire the directors, hire the producers, hire the writers. Democrat campaigns determine who will be in the ad. They determine the music in the ad -- scenery -- all of that.
And they worked with Michael J. Fox on deciding how they wanted him to appear. And this -- [caller] is exactly right. They wanted it to appear this way. Now -- that -- that's OK. You know, I want to stress this. They wanted it to appear this way but I just -- the idea that you're fooled by it is what bothers me.
From the October 26 edition of CBS' Evening News with Katie Couric:
COURIC: When you did the campaign ad, tell us what you were experiencing that day, and what we were seeing as a result.
FOX: Well, on any given day, I have a different -- a thousand different things I can feel, and I usually feel -- I go through a million cycles over the course of a day. For example, right now, this is a dearth of medication; not by design, I just take it, and it kicks in when it kicks in. Sometimes, it kicks in too hard, and then you get what's called dyskinesia, which is that rocking motion that I had when I did the commercial.
COURIC: Where you go from side to side.
COURIC: And that's actually caused by the medication?
FOX: It's caused by the medication. You know, it's funny that the notion that you could calculate it for effect is -- you know, people with Parkinson's out there were just kind of going, “Yeah, would that we could.”
COURIC: Could you have waited to do that ad when you were -- had less dyskinesia, for example?
FOX: Well, when do you know that's going to be? It's funny, my mother was -- was visiting me that day and was in the back room, and she was saying throughout -- throughout the filming of it, she was talking to my friends back there, and she was saying, “He's trying so hard to be still.” And so, she was the one that actually, when the comments were made, she was the only one that I talked to who was really angry; and she said, “I can't even see straight.” I said, “Mom, just relax. It's OK.”
COURIC: In fact, Rush Limbaugh suggested that you had failed to take your medication intentionally, so when you did that ad, you'd be more symptomatic and therefore more sympathetic.
FOX: Yeah, the irony of it is that I -- that I was too medicated.