Rush Limbaugh should be royally ashamed of himself.
In a shocking display of insensitivity, not to mention gracelessness and incivility, Limbaugh accused actor Michael J. Fox, who carries on a daily battle with Parkinson’s disease, of exaggerating the symptoms of the disease in several political commercials for Democratic candidates:
To Rush Limbaugh on Monday, Michael J. Fox looked like a faker. The actor, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has done a series of political ads supporting candidates who favor stem cell research, including Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin, who is running against Republican Michael Steele for the Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes.
“He is exaggerating the effects of the disease,” Limbaugh told listeners. “He’s moving all around and shaking and it’s purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”
Limbaugh went on to say that it was the only time he had seen Fox exhibit symptoms of the disease and that “he could barely control himself.”
Limbaugh must have realized how extraordinarily stupid and insensitive his remarks were because he apologized for them later in the show. What possible good that did except highlight the broadcaster’s utter contempt for common decency is beyond me. Apologies don’t get it done in this case.
Perhaps Limbaugh should be sentenced to a class on how Parkinson’s progresses and what the afflicted must deal with every day just to get out of bed. Here’s a description of the disease from the National Institutes of Health:
The four primary symptoms of PD are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. PD usually affects people over the age of 50. Early symptoms of PD are subtle and occur gradually. In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others. As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, which affects the majority of PD patients may begin to interfere with daily activities. Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions. There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to help in diagnosing sporadic PD. Therefore the diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination. The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately. Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.
Limbaugh’s reference to Fox being off medication fails to take into account that even if the patient is on one of the many drugs that help alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease, that each day is different for the Parkinson’s patient. Altering dosage as well as changing medication is a frequent necessity in order to allow the Parkinson’s sufferer to live something close to a “normal” life.
The left, of course, is having a field day with Limbaugh’s ignorant and ill tempered remarks as well they should. But perhaps they should also be wary of casting the first stone in this case. The shameless exploitation of people like Fox and the late Christopher Reeves in pushing embryonic stem cell research in a political context is dishonest, appealing as it does to a voter’s pity when the only basis for deciding whether such research should be funded by the government must be the quality of the science that could be achieved.
And in that case, there is much room for disagreement.
Speaking purely as a secularist, the scientific argument over the efficacy of using embryonic stem cells vs. adult stem cells (which, in fact, have no restrictions when it comes to funding), has yet to be resolved. In fact, the evidence suggests that even the so called “undifferentiated” embryonic stem cells supply little additional value to the cause of research given the enormous strides made in recent years using adult stem cells.
The scientific debate has taken a back seat to what many pro-life advocates see as using the fruits of abortion to advance human knowledge. While some of their arguments are compelling, the fact remains that under the law, an embryo is not a person and therefore can be treated as any other body part that is donated to the cause of science. Embryonic stem cell research is perfectly legal. The question is whether or not the government should fund it.
To determine whether or not our tax dollars should go toward this kind of research, the exact same criteria we use to decide whether to fund other scientific projects should be used. And in that respect, advocates for embryonic stem cell research have failed so far to make the case that using embryos is different than using adult tissue. It’s that simple. And for Democrats to play to the pity of voters by showing a wheel chair bound Christopher Reeves or a palsied Michael J. Fox and hint that if only those evil, mean, nasty Republicans could be defeated, Reeves would walk and Fox would be cured is nothing more than a disguised attack ad which uses a disgusting appeal to emotionalism. It is dishonest. It is exploitive. And Limbaugh was correct in calling attention to this shameless display of political tomfoolery.
But in typical Limbaugh fashion, the broadcaster had to go beyond the mundane kind of criticism levelled here and seek out controversy. It’s one of the reasons I stopped listening to him years ago. As his fame has increased, so too has his need to stand out. And sometimes – like yesterday – he goes too far out on the limb and he’s forced to make a hasty retreat.
Except in this case, the branch broke before he could scramble back to safety.
Limbaugh owes Fox more than an apology. If he were an honorable man, he would have Fox on his show to discuss the ravages of the disease and help his audience understand how cruel a life becomes when suffering from such a debilitating illness. Perhaps then, both Rush and his listeners will understand how truly despicable his comments about Fox were and why such a storm of condemnation has so righteously broken about his head.