Actor Michael J. Fox jokes that he may be short in stature, but he's still enough of a "big boy" to withstand criticism over his backing of embryonic stem cell research -- including comments by radio personality Rush Limbaugh initially questioning whether Fox may have exaggerated Parkinson's disease tremors in a televised political ad.
The ad in question had Fox backing Democrat Claire McCaskill in her effort to unseat Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and critics have denounced Fox as a mouthpiece for Democrats. He denied that charge to ABC News in a Sunday exclusive interview on "This Week."
Fox said that rather than partisan politics, he is most concerned with widening federally funded embryonic stem cell research -- and supporting candidates who would do so.
"I'm not a shill for the Democratic Party," Fox told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "I approached them. I sat down to find out what candidates are pro-stem cell in races where they're opposed by anti-stem cell candidates. And I had no predisposition toward Democrats or Republicans. It'd be fine with me either way.
"In fact," he added, "a Republican candidate who's pro-stem cell would be someone I'd really like to talk to. And in fact in the past I've supported, I've done commercials for [Sen.] Arlen Specter, [R-Pa.] who is a very aggressive pro-stem cell champion."
Following is the text of Fox's interview with Stephanopoulos.
Watch "This Week" to see the interview for yourself. Check your local listing for airtimes.
George Stephanopoulos: Michael, good to see you again.
Michael J. Fox: Thank you. Good to see you.
Stephanopoulos: You know, you made about as much news as President Bush this week. Did you expect to get hit this hard?
Fox: No, I mean, I expected there to be a swift response of some kind. But I mean, you know, particularly from the talk show group, when I heard that response, I was like, "What, are you kidding me?" I was, I mean, "You kidding me?" I was--
Stephanopoulos: You're talking about Rush Limbaugh?
Fox: Yes. It seemed just so, "No, it can't be."
Stephanopoulos: You couldn't believe it, but your mom was mad.
Fox: My mom was. Yes, she was not happy. Well, because she was with me when I shot the ads. And, she was visiting. And it's uncomfortable for her to see me not feeling well. And she knew, because what I was dealing with at that time, which was dyskinesia, which was a reaction to the medication. She knew how hard I was struggling to stay still. I truly wanted to stay still. It's more comfortable. It's not comfortable to be moving around. The goal is to be as calm as I can. So she was noting that struggle to my friends who were with her while I taped.
So then to hear that reaction made her livid. She was just, and, the way Irish moms can get, you know.
Stephanopoulos: Or Greek moms.
How does it work? You know, you take the medication. How do you know when you're going to be more in control or more out?
Fox: The thing is that, you know -- again, I've been diagnosed for 15 years, which means I probably have had the disease for 18, 19 years. They say by the time you show symptoms that 80 percent of the dopamine-producing cells in your brain are gone.
So, for example, when I first disclosed I had, it was after keeping it secret for seven years. I disclosed it partly because there was going to be no hiding it anymore pretty soon. And for all those years, I'd masked it with medication.