Michael J. Fox is probably one of the most favorably viewed
celebrities in the country. During his acting career, he was always
seen as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.
When his Parkinsons forced him to drop out of "Spin City," he left a
popular show at the height of its publicity, doing so in a very
public way. Since then, he's been a tireless advocate and has done
so in a consistently respectful and charming fashion.
When Rush Limbaugh chose to mock him, he made a major error: it's
easy to go after politicians. It's even easy to go after River
Phoenix, shortly after his death, making snide comments about his
drug addiction. Limbaugh's basic demographic is twofold: bullies and
people who like to suck up to bullies. But he only has wider appeal
at the sufferance of the broader public. Most people know he's a
blowhard, but he's a blowhard who advocates for issues that a lot of
people support, and he rarely crosses the line where he's going to
Attacking Chelsea Clinton (referring to her as the "White House Dog")
was one time he went over that line. In that case, he immediately
backed away from the statement.
In this case, he took his "apology" as an opportunity to slam Fox
further, and made himself look to the rest of the public the way he
looks to most of us left-wingers: like a hypocritical liar. In doing
so, however, he helped raise the profile of Fox's campaign, made for
-more- interviews with Fox, who repeatedly made his own comments not
about Limbaugh but about the broader issue of stem-cell research.
Limbaugh thought he could go up against someone with real class and
character when most of his experience involves going up against
politicians. Clearly, he misjudged this one.