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Interview With Michael J. Fox

Aired November 4, 2006 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening from Washington.
We came here to interview a major figure in this election. He's not on any ballot. He's not even a politician. But Michael J. Fox is campaigning all the same. He's got a crippling and incurable illness. And he believes that research involving cells from the earliest stages of human life could offer hope, hope for him and millions of others who suffer from all kinds of diseases.

But the research is also bitterly controversial. Lawmakers approved federal funding to expand it. President Bush vetoed the bill. Now Michael J. Fox is supporting candidates to build a veto- proof majority in Congress.

We talked about that tonight. We talked about his personal battle with Parkinson's disease, about what it's like to live with a body that sometimes has a mind of its own. And we talked about being a dad and how it feels to take bruising personal attacks in a fight that, one way or another, is shaping this campaign.


COOPER: As you know, Rush Limbaugh had -- had suggested that either you were acting or -- or hadn't taken you medication intentionally. He has since sort of apologized.

Do you -- do you accept his apology?

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: Well, you know, I'm fine. Yes, great.

You know, I -- to me, it -- it's so not -- it so has nothing to do with the topic. I mean, he would have to take it up, like I said, with -- with the other million-and-a-half Americans who have Parkinson's, how they feel.


COOPER: Because you feel it was insulting to them?

FOX: Yes. I think -- I think it was.

But, for me, it's not -- it's so -- it's a sidelight. You know, it's not -- it's not germane to the conversation. It's time -- you know, we're talking about curing, potentially curing, the conditions that affect 100 million Americans and their families. It's not about a radio show.


COOPER: Well, what Rush Limbaugh said about Michael J. Fox made a lot of people angry.

Coming up, you will hear much more from Fox about that, and about the issue that is as personal as it is political for him, embryonic stem cell research.

We spent the day with Fox as he campaigned in Maryland and Virginia. And, in between campaign stops, he sat down with me and talked candidly about the disease, his activism, and Rush Limbaugh -- all that ahead.

But, first: the long journey that has led the 45-year-old actor to the center of this midterm election campaign, and made him a target along the way.



JUSTINE BATEMAN, ACTRESS: Guess what? I'm "Dear Mallory."

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: Yes. And I'm adorable Alex.



COOPER: He was the boyish star of the breakout hit television sitcom "Family Ties" in the 1980s.

His role, Alex Keaton, made him a household name.


FOX: The future. Unbelievable.


COOPER: As Marty McFly in the "Back to the Future" trilogy, Michael J. Fox became a Hollywood star.

But, in 1991, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative brain disorder that causes tremors, slow movement, difficulty with balance.


FOX: Hey, Paulie.


COOPER: Fox kept working, taking on the role of Mike Flaherty in "Spin City."

But, in 1998, Fox went public with his illness, and, two years later, announced that he was too sick to continue working.

He went from actor to advocate, fighting for legislation that would embryonic stem cell research, which some say offers the best hope for curing Parkinson's and many other diseases.


FOX: Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans.


COOPER: Fox and others say those aren't enough to make real progress, which is why he's hit the campaign trail again, speaking out in ads and in public.

But it was his appearance for Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill that earned him the wrath of some political pundits.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: So, this is really shameless, folks. This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication, or he's acting, one of the two.


COOPER: Limbaugh later apologized, by his criticism served only to strengthen Michael J. Fox's resolve.

And, today, he was on the trail again...


COOPER: ... his symptoms clearly visible, at a rally for Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin.

FOX: I'm supporting candidates who support all stem cell research in races where their opponents simply don't.

COOPER: From there, it was on to another rally, this one for Virginia Democrat Jim Webb. That is where I caught up with him just for a moment between campaign stops.

(on camera): What have you learned on -- on -- being on the campaign trail like this? I mean, what...

FOX: That if -- I mean, truly, if you believe in something, it gives you strength, and it propels you forward.

If you really -- you know, it's funny. It gives you this strange kind of immunity, you know, because I really believe in the message. I really believe in the promise of stem cell research. And I'm happy that we're having a conversation.


COOPER: Well, the politics of embryonic stem cell research is as complicated as the science itself.

This past July, as we mentioned a moment ago, President Bush used his veto power for the first time to quash a bill that both the Senate and the House has passed. The measure would have loosened limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. It was a huge setback for supporters, but clearly not the end of the fight.


COOPER: Do you feel like you're making a difference?

FOX: Yes, I do.

And it's -- you know, the great thing about it, when you get involved with something like this, is, it's much bigger than you. I mean, in a way, I might have become a little bit of a catalyst in some areas, in terms of the conversation. But the conversation has its own steam.

You just -- you know, for me, I just wanted to get it going. And I wanted to get it going especially this close to the election. I mean, that's -- the great thing for me in all this is that we're, you know, what, five days out, and we're talking about stem cells. It's on AOL, and it's the second-most popular search. And that's just fantastic.

COOPER: Did you realize that you would come under attack?

FOX: It's a heated topic.

You know, it's a subject that a lot of people have a lot of passion about on both sides. So, I expected that. I was kind of surprised that at the personal level of the attack, but -- but, on the...


COOPER: Did it -- does it hurt?

FOX: I'm kind of used to the attention.

I'm used to -- you know, and I made a decision about it, about being symptomatic, and being out in public, in that it doesn't bother me, that I'm committed to being comfortable however that manifests itself, but there are a lot of other people that deal with the stigma and deal with having to hide and deal with -- with a sense of shame or a sense of embarrassment, or do they deal with it? That wasn't helpful.

COOPER: And there is -- there is still a big stigma...


FOX: Oh, sure. Absolutely. There are people that worry about the way they are perceived and worry about their employers making judgments about their capabilities based on their symptoms. And... COOPER: Do people look at you differently, you think?

FOX: In 1998, I disclosed that I had been dealing with this for seven years. And, so, now, it's 15 years. So, whatever. It just is who I am So, I don't think about it a lot.

The thing, too, I think it was an attempt to marginalize, you know? And it's too big a subject to be marginalized. And too many people are affected for them to be marginalized. So...

COOPER: As you know, Rush Limbaugh had -- had suggested that either you were acting or -- or hadn't taken you medication intentionally. He has since sort of apologized.

Do you -- do you accept his apology?

FOX: Well, you know, I'm fine. Yes, great.

You know, I -- to me, it -- it's so not -- it so has nothing to do with the topic. I mean, he would have to take it up, like I said, with -- with the other million-and-a-half Americans who have Parkinson's, how they feel.


COOPER: Because you feel it was insulting to them?

FOX: Yes. I think -- I think it was.

But, for me, it's not -- it's so -- it's a sidelight. You know, it's not -- it's not germane to the conversation. It's time -- you know, we're talking about curing, potentially curing, the conditions that affect 100 million Americans and their families. It's not about a radio show.

COOPER: And -- and, yet, what -- what he and what other critics continue to say, though, is that you are, in some ways, misleading, that one -- and one of the things that they have said is -- and Rush Limbaugh said, in fact -- that you were misleading voters into thinking that their vote for a single United States senator has a direct impact on stem cell research in Missouri; it doesn't, and it won't.

FOX: That's -- I can't -- I can't follow that logic.

You have the -- the -- both houses of the Congress voted to pass legislation that would expand federal funding and expand embryonic stem cell research. The president, because he -- it wasn't a veto- proof margin, vetoed that legislation.

COOPER: It was his first and only veto.

FOX: It was his first and only veto.

If you have a sufficient number of legislators on both sides, and in both parties, he can't veto that legislation, or at least he can be -- they can override it.

COOPER: So, that's the mission for you now?

FOX: That's it. I mean...

COOPER: To -- to go state by state and try to get...

FOX: That's -- that's the math. I can't -- it flies in the face of how our system works to say, your vote doesn't count. I mean, it's the purest expression of the vote counting. Deciding who gets your vote is the purest expression of democracy.


COOPER: One quick editorial note, before moving on.

Because his remarks triggered a lot of the current focus on Michael J. Fox, we invited Rush Limbaugh to appear on the program. He declined.

Next Tuesday, stem cell research will be on the ballot in only state, Missouri. And that's where this controversy began for Fox, with an ad he made for a Democratic Senate candidate. Voters there will decide whether to legalize and protect embryonic stem cell research.

At least four states have already voted to fund this kind of scientific work. And a majority of Americans now support federal funding as well. Here's the "Raw Data."

In a CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation this week, 54 percent of respondents said they favor federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Thirty-nine percent are opposed. Support is even higher among those with family members who could benefit from the research. Sixty-four percent of those respondents favor federal funding. Thirty percent oppose it.

In a moment: Many who oppose the amendment in Missouri believe it will lead to human cloning. When we come back, we will talk to Fox about that and to our own 360 M.D, Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- when this special edition of 306 continues.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And I'm not going to allow it.




SEN. JIM TALENT (R), MISSOURI: The allegations in the commercial are false. I'm not saying anything with regard to Mr. Fox's intent.

No, I have supported that research over the years. Now, I'm not comfortable crossing a line we have never crossed before, and funding research -- funding research that involves the destruction of a human embryo.

But, no, I have -- what I don't like is cloning. And that's -- here in Missouri, we have a ballot issue which would create a constitutional right to clone the earliest stages of human life. And -- and, that, I do oppose.


COOPER: Well, that was Republican Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, talking about the commercial Michael J. Fox made, endorsing his opponent Claire McCaskill.

Now, McCaskill supports a ballot that -- a ballot measure that would legalize embryonic stem cell research in Missouri. Senator Talent, though, and many others argue it would allow human cloning. His concern is part the slippery slope in this debate, specifically that this is all leading to cloning of people.

The science is complicated. So are the semantics. The goal of therapeutic cloning, the research that Michael J. Fox is pushing for, is not to make babies. It's to make stem cells. But critics worry that the technology could be misused. They also worry, the benefits of these microscopic cells are being oversold.


COOPER: There is also those who have said, look, that -- that you are giving false hope to people, that you're implying that a -- a cure is just around the corner, if only they will cast...


FOX: I never said that.

But, at the same time, too, this qualification of hope is -- is very unsettling. It's hope -- you know, hope is what this country is about.

Hope -- hope -- and it's an informed hope. It's a hope based on the opinions of most scientists. I won't say all scientists, because there may be one or two out there. But we agree that adult stem cell research is worthwhile and viable and may yield results.

We agree that there no should be no egg farming, that there should be -- there should be no reproductive human cloning. We agree that, to the extent that some of these hundreds of thousand of cells that are routinely being destroyed can be adopted, that's great. You know, we support that program, snowflake babies. We agree on everything.

We're just saying, you know, you're saying, we can have a seat belt, and we would also like an air bag, because the technology exists, so why should we stop short of a full expression of our hope for cures and following the advice of scientists that the other may yield results as well?

When people throw out words like cloning, they may have images of recreating human beings, like 10 of you and five of me, or whatever. It's not that at all. It's being able to create cells that can be used specific to patients for drug screening, for research.

But there is no life created. And there is no potential for life there. So, it's advanced science, but there are such stringent ethical guidelines in place, that it will never express itself in the way that they are concerned.


COOPER: And, as Michael acknowledged later, good and honest people disagree on this issue.

As we said, the science at the heart of this debate is complicated for -- for all of us.

360 M.D. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, probably smarter than -- certainly, than me, he's a neurosurgeon, CNN senior medical correspondent. He joins me now from Atlanta.

Sanjay, if we're not talking about cloning, as in recreating human beings, what -- what kind of cloning is involved in embryonic stem cell?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you sort of hit on it a little bit earlier.

You're talking about therapeutic cloning here, you know, creating cells specifically for the purpose of treating things, treating disease processes, for example.

So, you are talking about actually creating what is known as blastocyst, which is a cluster of cells, and then extracting some of those cells that are an exact DNA match of the person you're trying to treat, allowing those cells to grow into whatever, grow into a pancreas, grow into a liver, whatever -- obviously, this hasn't been done yet; that is the hope -- and, then, giving those cells back to the person as perfect DNA match.

There is no risk of rejection. This is sort of the heart of therapeutic cloning. That is the promise of stem cells. And that is what a lot of people are talking about.

It is not, subsequently, taking that cluster of cells, implanting it into a woman's uterus, and allowing it to grow into a -- into a human being.

COOPER: Well, some people -- obviously, a lot of people have problems with the idea of cloning in any form. Do we have to have cloning if there is embryonic stem cell implantation? GUPTA: No, you don't have to have cloning to do that.

You know, when you talk about these embryonic stem cells, you could just have some of these blank cells, and sort of -- sort of prod them to grow into certain clusters of cells, liver cells, or pancreatic cells, and then inject them into a person who might be ill from diabetes or liver failure.

The -- the disadvantage of that is that, sometimes, they would have to take anti-rejection drugs, much in the same way that they would take anti-rejection drugs from an organ transplant. So, it wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be a DNA match. So, you would have some disadvantages there.

But you don't need even the therapeutic cloning in order to actually treat some of these disease processes.

COOPER: Well, how would stem cells actually help someone, or could potentially help someone, with Parkinson's, like Michael J. Fox?

GUPTA: Well, it's really interesting, Anderson.

If you look at the exact process that causes Parkinson's, it's the lack of dopamine in the brain. That's a specific neurotransmitter. It's produced in a specific area of the brain. For whatever reason -- we're not exactly sure why -- certain people who develop Parkinson's, that part of the brain isn't working properly.

The idea is, you could take some of these embryonic stem cells, coax them into becoming dopamine-forming cells, and literally inject them into appropriate parts of the brain, appropriate areas of the brain, and they, subsequently, take over, start making that dopamine, and, as a result, the symptoms of Parkinson's, the -- the hope is, would gradually disappear.

This obviously has not been done on humans yet, but that is the hope. The -- the good thing about Parkinson's, in particular, it's a discrete area of the brain that you would be treating, which is why scientists are so optimistic that it might actually work.

COOPER: All right.

We are going to talk more to Sanjay coming up, and also to an opponent of this, who says the science simply isn't there yet.

When we found out that Michael J. Fox would sit down for tonight's interview, we asked to you e-mail us questions to ask him. We got a huge response. We're going to have some of his answers to your questions.

And we will also have more from Dr. Gupta coming up about the state-of-the-art in stem cell research, where the hope is, what are the greatest concerns -- all that and more when our special edition of 360 conditions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SPIN CITY") FOX: I only have one thing to say. If you have not yet saved a baby, I strongly suggest you do so.

ALEXANDER CHAPLIN, ACTOR: Mike, can I get you to sign this copy of your newspaper cover?

FOX: Sure.

CHAPLIN: You know, for my mom.

FOX: What's her name?





FOX: Hey, this is amazing. I'm on the subway. Some woman tries to steal a pair of my underwear.

CONNIE BRITTON, ACTRESS: From your gym bag?

FOX: No.





LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE (R-MD), MARYLAND SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I support stem cell research. I support adult -- adult and cord blood. I draw the line on federal funding for research, embryonic stem cell research, that destroys the embryo.

But I'm also heartened by the promising science that's beginning to emerge with respect to saving that embryo, as they extract those stem lines. So, the -- the future is still unfolding on embryonic. My only caution is, let's not rush to judgment. Let's use a -- a moral compass. Let's use an ethical compass, as well as a scientific compass, to guide us.


COOPER: Well, that was Maryland's lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate.

And what he said explains a lot about why this issue can be so confusing. There are different types of stem cells. And keeping them straight isn't always easy. The difference between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells is a central and very emotional part of this debate.

I talked to Michael J. Fox about those differences. And I also asked him some of your questions. That when we pick up the interview.


COOPER: What is it like putting yourself out there like this? I mean, one of the worst things you can do for Parkinson's is put yourself under stress. And, I mean, you are putting yourself under enormous -- even right now.

FOX: Well, it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity to help and to further this conversation.

And it's -- like I said, that's bigger than me. And I'm uniquely positioned to lend my face to this and my voice to it. And, so, I'm willing to do that. And I think it certainly is exacerbating my symptoms. But I don't think it's accelerating the disease, in that sense.

COOPER: We -- we asked viewers to send in some e-mails, some questions. We got hundreds of responses. I just want to ask you a couple of the questions that some of the viewers wanted to know about.

Some of them are tough.

Jacob in -- in Dallas, Texas, asked: "Why should an innocent unborn child, so that tests and experiments may be run, in an effort to possibly save others? How do we value one life over another?"

FOX: There is a -- there is something that is in place now, which is the destruction of thousands of these cells. It's happening. And it has been happening for 20 years.

COOPER: These cells are being thrown out?

FOX: They're being thrown out. They're being wasted, purely wasted.

So, and, even with programs like adoption, it's not going to put a dent in it. They are going to be destroyed. And they continue to be destroyed. So, our position.

And we -- and, again, anybody who has prayed on this, or thought on it, or has deep feeling about it, I so respect that. And I'm not out to change anyone's mind. I'm really not.

I'm out to motivate the 70 percent that polls tell us are in favor of this research, that, if they are, they need to make a decision now to move forward.

But to go back to his point, these cells are going to be destroyed. So, to us, and to me, it's a pro-life position to use them to save people that are alive today, and the child that is going to be born with juvenile diabetes, and the kid who is going to, you know, go surfing, and get a spinal cord injury, and not be able to walk, that that is -- that that is a pro-life position.

And, again, full respect to those who differ or have differing opinions, but do know that we don't take this lightly. And we fully look at it, and searched our hearts, and we think it's the right thing to do.

COOPER: Another question from a viewer.

Theresa in Miami, Florida, says: "I understand that great progress has been made and many cures have been found for the research of adult stem cells, where the donor is unharmed. I also understand that many religious groups do not oppose this kind of stem cell research, but do oppose the use of embryos for this purpose. Are you aware of the distinction? And, if so, why do you think that the American public is being led to believe that there's no successful stem cell research going on in this country?"

FOX: You know, we -- as I said, we support adult stem cell research. It is -- it is limited, again, because the cells are differentiated. They already know what they are. So, you can only -- you use them in a limited way. And, in fact...

COOPER: Whereas the embryonic cells can be used potentially...


FOX: They can be anything. They -- so you -- they're much more versatile.

And that's why scientists say they hold more promise for a cure. So, we don't really know, you know, the full potential of embryonic stem cells.


FOX: But informed -- as I said, informed hope is out there, because scientists have been so supportive of it and so expressed its promise.

COOPER: The president has, several times, taken credit, saying: My administration is the first administration to fund this kind of...

FOX: It's the first one that had the opportunity to. It's the first one that had the opportunity to.

So, you know, and, by limiting the lines to what he said, I think 60 -- but it really turned out to be in the area of 20, if not less.

COOPER: Right. He said -- he said you could do research on embryonic stem cells that existed up to a certain date.

FOX: A certain time.

COOPER: Right.

FOX: Which, again, is interesting, when you talk about -- if your position is that that's life, and it's sacrosanct, how do you draw -- how do you say, at this time, on this day, anything before that can be used; anything after that can't be used?

That's another argument.

But the cell lines that we got, we're -- you know, working with them now is like working with Windows 95 in this world, in this computer world. It's just -- they are old. They are polluted by mouse feeder cells. They're -- they just aren't as viable.

So, it's hard to get a full -- like I said, a full appreciation for what's possible. But -- and the other thing about adult stem cells is, it was put to me by somebody -- in fact, there's an interesting way to look at it.

They're -- like most adults, they are cranky. They know who they are. They know what they do. They don't want to do anything else.


FOX: If you get them to do something else, they are cranky about doing it. And, then, when you want them to change, they are cranky about that. And, then, it's hard to get them to turn around and do something else.

I mean, they're -- they can be productive. But it's a very different thing from the potential and the versatility of embryonic stem cells.


COOPER: Well, we will have a very different view of the science and the ethics of stem cells coming up -- and, also, next, Michael J. Fox on being a father of four kids with a disease that sometimes leave him a spectator inside his own body.


COURTENEY COX, ACTRESS: I'm just a student.

MICHAEL GROSS, ACTOR: No, no, that's fine. No. You're...

COX: You know, I can be completely wrong. In fact, I know I am.


GROSS: No, you're...



FOX: How about this Lauren? Is she my little Ms. Freud or what? She can take a perfectly innocent looking dream about a man running around naked, while his wife plays racquetball with a former president... (LAUGHTER)

FOX: ... and use it to prove that that same man has deep-seated abnormalities.





RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO HOST: So, 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.


COOPER: That was Rush Limbaugh offering a conditional apology to Michael J. Fox.

Fox admits in his autobiography that when he appeared before Congress years ago, he didn't take his medication so that people would see his symptoms. That is no longer an option for Fox. His condition has deteriorated, and he must take the medication in order to sit for an interview like the one you're hearing tonight.


COOPER: Another question. Doug from St. Louis: "Embryonic stem cell research is not illegal in the state of Missouri. Amendment Two asks the citizens to support the use of tax dollars to fund the research. Shouldn't the drug companies who stand to benefit from the research do the funding? Are the drug companies going to let us have the new cures for free?"

FOX: Well, first of all, anybody who is sick stands to benefit. And the families stand to benefit.

The -- you talk about the private sector. Anything big that is going to happen in this area has to have government support. The government can throw more money at these problems by accident than the private sector can on purpose.

And my -- my position is, that -- that the health and future health of our citizens is every bit as vital as is our roads, our military, our -- our infrastructure. It's hugely important. So why wouldn't the country make an investment in that?

COOPER: Final question from a viewer. Carolyn in East Peoria, Illinois, wrote: "What is the individual Parkinson's experience internally? What does it feel like to be inside a body afflicted with Parkinson's? If anyone has the verbal skills and sensitivity to make us understand what it's like, it's Michael J. Fox."

FOX: Well, I was saying to somebody the other day, it's like you're in a car and a bunch of teenagers get it and go for a joyride and you're just in the car. And you try to take it back when it gets back, and you just got to make the most of it. Listen to the radio, do whatever you're going to do, but you're not going anywhere until they're done with it. And that's what it is.

When you try and talk sometimes, and have a conversation, it's like someone is shaking you while you're trying to talk.

COOPER: Does it hurt? Like right now, are you in pain?

FOX: It doesn't hurt. Just in terms of talking, finish that thought. It can have cognitive -- can affect your cognitive abilities. It doesn't for me, but it might as well sometimes when you can't express what you want to express because you're under siege.

But as far as hurting goes, it puts your body in thousand of positions that it doesn't want to be in over the course of a day or the course of even a couple of hours. So the sheer kind of isometric stress from that hurts. And I mean, you're always aching. And you're always kind of sore from that.

COOPER: Is it true one of your kids calls you Shaky Dad?

FOX: Yes, my son used to call me Shaky Dad, and my daughters. My little one's favorite thing to say, I may not be able to do something, you got a broken brain. Broken brain.

But -- but at home, in my life it's exceedingly normal. And it's not a big -- it's not -- it doesn't define me. But for these purposes, I know that it's kind of an interesting thing, and it goes back to the idea of people making judgments based on symptoms.

If I get involved with something like this, it is going to exacerbate symptoms. I'm going to have to medicate and the medication may cause the dyskinesias, all that stuff.

COOPER: Dyskinesia is?

FOX: The rocking thing.

COOPER: So that's what's happening right now, is from the medication?

FOX: Yes, it's from the medication. It's kind of a battle going on now between the medication and the disease.

COOPER: When you were criticized for -- or questioned about showing symptoms...

FOX: Well, I think it was the mocking. The brutality of that I think really hurt people. And I think...

COOPER: You felt he was bullying? FOX: Well, it was what it was. We're going to see that footage forever. And people had a reaction to it. But as I said, it's so beside the main issue that we're talking about.

COOPER: But it does go to the core of the stigma. It goes to the core of, for a lot of people who suffer from this. I mean the questions of "Can I go outside and show" -- you know, is this -- "are people going make fun of me?"

FOX: Yes. And it goes to any illness, any condition where the -- you know, where there's feeling of go away, I don't want to hear from you. I don't want to see you. Even if it's implied, even if it's somehow kind of just suggested.

And again, the most important thing we have in America, no matter what are condition, is our franchise, our ability to step up and have an influence in the course of government and the future of the country. And that can be one vote.

But to say that that vote has no value or that that vote can't initiate change is crazy. Of course it can. If you vote in enough people to go ride that veto, we're going to have a renewed focus on science in this country and embryonic stem cell research that is going to yield results.

COOPER: Do you feel you're being used? That was the other criticism that Limbaugh said, is that...?

FOX: Who's using me?

COOPER: As a shill for the Democrats.

FOX: I called them. And I work for Republicans. And I've worked -- I've worked for Republicans in the future.

I looked at this election because, based on the veto this summer, which really stung. I said I want to do something to help move this forward. And I sat down and said who are pro-embryonic stem cell candidates in the races that -- where their opposition is anti- embryonic stem cell. And I -- they all happened to be Democrats. But I called and said I'd like to help.

If there is -- if there is a Republican candidate out there who's pro-embryonic stem cell who's in a race against an anti-embryonic stem cell candidate who's a Democrat, I'd be happy to talk to you. And happy to get involved.

It's really -- disease is a nonpartisan problem. It's going to take a bipartisan solution. You really have to transcend this stuff and really look at it.


COOPER: Want to get a more precise picture of Parkinson's now. Joining us is 360 M.D., Sanjay Gupta.

So why the shaking back and forth?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting. You know, there's a -- there's a side effect of the medications that are used to treat Parkinson's. The medication is a -- some of it is dopamine that we were talking about earlier. The side effect can actually be something known as dyskinisia, which Michael Fox talked about briefly. It sort of caused that sort of writhing movement that you see there, where someone is actually quite loose, it seems.

It's involuntary movement, but it's also distortion of voluntary movements. I saw a couple times he was trying to straighten out his hair, for example. His hand sort of goes all over the place.

This is a known side effect of these medications. It occurs in about 20 percent of people who take these medications within the first year and can be pretty profound as you see with him.

COOPER: At one point early on he had talked about testifying before Congress and not taking its medication to show symptoms. They now say that's no longer possible. He has to take this medication. If he wasn't taking medication, what would happen?

GUPTA: He has pretty profound Parkinson's. I guess that's somewhat obvious. But Parkinson's is typically as characterized by significant tremor. People sort of see its rigidity and its slowness of movement. With him he's very loose instead.

If he wasn't taking his medications at all, Anderson, he might actually get into a position where he couldn't even really move. He would be so rigid, he might not be able to walk. He might freeze, for example. Sometimes people have difficulty talking. They cannot even swallow their own saliva. It can be very profound in someone who has severe Parkinson's not taking their medication.

I don't know what point he's at, but he saying that it's so severe that he cannot not take his medication. So he might be that severe now.

COOPER: Adult stem cells, are they just as good as embryonic stem cells?

GUPTA: It's fair question. I think most scientists, most in the scientific community would say no. They can be very good.

Let me just frame it to you like this. Adult stem cells exist in the body for a reason. The body is designed to basically have some of these adult stem cells around in case we have injuries, in case there are damaged cells. They come in to try and repair some of those damaged cells.

When we're talking about embryonic stem cells, we're talking about totally blank cells that can be sort of programmed to do anything, to not just repair damaged cells, necessarily, but to really do anything. And that's really the simplest way I can think of describing to you the difference. Embryonic stem cells have a lot more promise, have a lot more potential. It's not to be belittle or undermine the potential of adult stem cells, but they're just not the same thing.

COOPER: We're going to talk to someone who disagrees with that. Coming up, let's get another perspective. Sanjay, thank you.

Another scientific view next. We're going to hear from a researcher who says embryonic stem cells should be off-limits both for scientific and also for moral reasons. But a break first. Stay tuned.



FOX: Vote for Jim Webb for U.S. Senate.


COOPER: That was Michael J. Fox campaigning tonight for Virginia Democrat Jim Webb. There is no denying the emotional impact of the case that he's making, but many thoughtful people who disagree with them. Some say the science simply isn't there. Some have moral or religious differences.

Joining me now is David Prentice. He's a senior fellow of life sciences at the Family Research Council. David, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: You support adult stem cell research, numerous kinds of research, but not embryonic stem cell research. Why?

PRENTICE: Well, there are two basic problems with the embryonic and associated cloning. No. 1 is the ethical problem that most people seem to be aware of, that you do have to destroy an embryo or as cloning, as has been proposed in Amendment Two in Missouri, create and then destroy an embryo.

Many people around the country have a significant ethical concern with that. Different polls show different numbers, but actually, it can range anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of people that are opposed to destroying embryos for the research.

The other problem, though, is the scientific point. The flexibility that's been described for embryonic stem cells is actually a hindrance to making them work. They tend to be a wild, uncontrolled cell that tends to grow out of control and make anything and everything.

In fact, about the time these ads started floating around, there was a report where they tried to treat Parkinson's rats with human embryonic stem cells. They saw some improvement in the rats. But they had to end the experiment. And what they found was that all the rats were showing tumor formation.

The converse of that, adult stem cells. You know, we used to think that adult stem cells were very limited, can only make the tissue from which they were from. What we're finding over the last few years is that's just not the case. We've sort of had a narrow focus here, a different paradigm or dogma.

What we're seeing is the adult stem cells in some cases are just as flexible as embryonic. But two days ago a group in the U.K. taking umbilical cord blood stem cells and turned it into chunks of liver.

COOPER: Let me ask you. Two, really, topics to talk about. On the destruction of embryos, which is clearly a major sticking point to many people who oppose this kind of research, Michael J. Fox and others say, "Well, look, these embryos are being destroyed and being thrown out in fertility clinics across the country." If you support in vitro fertilization, these embryos are just being tossed out anyway.

PRENTICE: Well, that whole topic about how we create embryos in sort of an industry does need to be addressed, but let's address the actual numbers. We hear that there are thousands upon thousands being thrown away daily. That's just not the truth.

The Rand Corporation did a survey. There are 400,000 embryos in freezers in fertility clinics around the country, but the vast, vast majority, the parents want to keep them. They don't want them thrown away.

There are only a few thousand available for this research. And we've already heard many scientists say that's just not enough. And so you're back to actually creating embryos by fertilization or cloning, somatic cell nuclear transfer, to use these embryos for the research. And many people have significant concerns with that.

COOPER: But those 400,000 are not going to be utilized, by and large.

PRENTICE: Actually, most of those will be. The parents want them kept for their own family building. Some can be adopted, as Mr. Fox discussed, but the vast majority are being kept. There are only a few thousand available. It's just not going to be enough for what we keep hearing is this push in embryonic stem cell research.

COOPER: On the research, on stem cells, there are a lot of scientists who say, look, we need to research all of these: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells.

Douglas Melton, who's a co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, said, and I quote, "There are camps for adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells but these camps only exist in the political arena. There's no disagreement among scientists over the need to aggressively pursue both in order to solve important medical problems."

PRENTICE: Well, I guess I disagree with his characterization. And it's not most scientists one side or the other. You could probably divide it pretty equally in terms of what seems to be the most promising.

Bottom line is with the adult stem cells we're already seeing application in patients for lots of different diseases. Maybe not cures at this point but patients, thousand of patients, improved. And if we're being pragmatic about resources, especially taxpayer dollars, then we ought to be focusing on adult stem cells that are going to bring those treatments to patients the fastest.

COOPER: There are those again, though, who say, "Look, the embryonic stem cells, they're potent. They can develop into virtually every type of cell in the human body." And you have said that can be a negative. You know, the supporters say the research just hasn't been done and there's a lot of potential there. And why not -- why not make a step toward that hope?

PRENTICE: Well, 25 years of research may or may not be enough with mouse embryonic and then human. That pure potency can be a problem that flexibility to change into different tissues.

As I mentioned before, we're now finding that there are some adult stem cells that have nearly the same flexibility as the embryonic but without that tendency to form tumors, without the problem of forming misplaced tissue.

You know, this characterization of adult stem cells as limited just doesn't seem to be true with all the published science that's coming out over the last few years.

And what we're finding is those are the cells that are a maintenance crew. They do take care of normal war and tear. But they can form these other tissues and can repair damage from disease and injury.

COOPER: As we said, there are good and honest people on both sides of this debate who disagree. David Prentice, we appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

PRENTICE: Thank you.

COOPER: To almost everyone involved in this on either side, it is a powerful gut level issue. It's been a fascinating and moving night for us so far. In a moment, Michael J. Fox on his hopes for the future and also his hope, well, on hope itself. Stay tuned.


COOPER: We've been talking with actor and activist Michael J. Fox about his life with Parkinson's Disease. He's, of course, become an outspoken advocate for embryonic stem cell research. And though he's stricken with this illness, Fox is very optimistic about his life, his future and finding a cure for Parkinson's.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FOX: I have this one message, and it's bipartisan and it's nonpartisan and it's just about hope. This is about giving hope a chance.

I'm just really, really concerned if we close doors, because we think that our scientists aren't ethical enough to proceed down this path in a way that we as a country would approve of. I think that you know, we -- the strictest ethical guidelines are in place.

You know, but if we don't lead in this, another country is going to. And they're not going to -- we're not going to have the ethical oversight and it's going to happen. So we should do it.

Like I said, I just really believe in this. I have no ax to grind other than I just want -- I just want us to consider the effect this could have on people that we love. And -- and you know, I really would love for us to be optimistic and express hope.

And so, you know, if it's exhausting for me, it's fine. I'm fine. I'm all right.

COOPER: Well, coming up, some of the other news of the day. Stay tuned.



CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Lin, and up next, a special edition of "THIS WEEK AT WAR". But first, a look at what's happening right now in the news.

We've been following the latest on a developing story tonight. Just hours ago, the Reverend Ted Haggard was dismissed as pastor of the church he founded. The reason? Allegations of sexually immoral conduct. Joining me now on the telephone is CNN's faith and values correspondent, Delia Gallagher.

Delia, you've been talking your sources in the evangelical community. What is the reaction here?

DELIA GALLAGHER, FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Carol, as you can imagine, there's huge shock reverberating throughout the community this evening -- the news that this oversight committee has removed the pastor, who built this church basically from scratch, from the basement. I mean, Ted Haggard was held in very high regard by most of the evangelical community, and this has come as a real shock to them. Also, a certain amount of dismay, over the fact that, for the past two days, he's been in front of the TV cameras twice and given conflicted statements. So now evangelicals have to think about accountability, that, if you get caught in something, it's your job to come clean and ask for forgiveness and accept your punishment. So, a certain amount of consternation for the fact that that didn't happen, and surprise that their committee came right out and didn't hesitate to say that he was involved in this sexually immoral conduct.

LIN: all right, Delia. Thank you very much for following this story for us.

I'm Carol Lin at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Join me at 10:00 p.m. Eastern for a complete wrap-up of the day's news.

THIS WEEK AT WAR starts right now.


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