Celebs Step Up, Politics Slaps 'Em Down

ByABC News

Oct. 29, 2006 — -- Celebrities have been involved in politics for decades -- but in recent years, it seems that when celebrities get into the ring, they get pretty beat up.

This morning, actor Michael J. Fox reacted to Rush Limbaugh's accusation he exaggerated the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease in a Democratic campaign ad.

"I don't want to react personally to these attacks," Fox told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "It's pointless, it's silly. It's like getting in a fight with a bully. You're not going to change his mind. You're just probably going to get a nose bleed. So why bother? But make no mistake, it hurts."

On his radio show, "bully" Limbaugh said Fox's "moving all around and shaking" was "purely an act."

Fox was stunned to hear Limbaugh's accusation.

"When I heard that response, I was like, "What, are you kidding me?," he said.

Fox may have been caught off guard, because while celebrities have been pushing political causes for decades, they are usually treated with more respect than the politicians they support.

For years, Hollywood has given a hand to Democrats. Humphrey Bogart stumped for FDR, Harry Belafonte for JFK, and Warren Beatty for George McGovern.

Many Republicans -- even Ronald Reagan, who knew both worlds -- stayed relatively quiet about celebrity liberalism.

But Mark Halperin, ABC's political director and author of "The Way to Win," said the gloves have now come off.

"Conservatives under George W. Bush," Halperin said, "have basically said to Hollywood liberals, 'We're calling you out. No more free ride. You come after us, we're coming after you."

Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines set off a storm of Republican outrage when she announced, right before the start of the Iraq war, that she was embarrassed "George W. Bush is from Texas", her home state.

The president later addressed her comment on NBC News.

"They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out," Bush said. "You know, freedom is a two-way street."

In a scene from the Dixie Chicks' new movie, "Shut Up and Sing," Maines reacts to the comment by referring to the president with a curse word.

ABC's Dan Harris asked Maines if she regretted her initial comment about being ashamed of the president.

"No way. No, I do not regret it. I stand by it," she said.

Maines isn't the only celebrity to throw a verbal punch at Bush. In 2004, Senator John Kerry held a fundraiser where celebrities called the president a liar and a thug.

"I'm frightened by Bush, if you want to know the truth," said actor Chevy Chase.

At the event, Kerry voiced his support for their outrage, saying, "Every performer tonight, in their own way … conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country."

In doing so, he gave the president a made-to-order talking point.

"The other day, my opponent said when he was with some entertainers from Hollywood that they were the heart and soul of America," Bush said.

Republicans do have their own celebrity backers, including Wayne Newton, Bo Derek and Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the movie "The Passion of the Christ."

Caviezel is playing a prominent role now, too. He's featured in a political ad that responds to Fox's controversial ad.

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