Actor Michael J. Fox Endorses Maryland U.S. Senate Democratic Hopeful

Michael J. Fox endorses Rep. Benjamin Cardin's U.S. Senate bid in a new ad in which the actor, visibly affected by his battle with Parkinson's disease, criticizes Republican candidate Michael Steele's stance on stem cell research.

The spot is the latest in a series of ads by the actor in support of senate candidates who support stem cell research, which many say hold the promise for providing treatments or cures for many diseases and conditions. Many social conservatives oppose embryonic stem cell research because human embryos are destroyed in the process of obtaining the stem cells.

Steele, Maryland's lieutenant governor, supports research on adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood, but not research that requires destroying an embryo to secure stem cells.

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The effects of Parkinson's disease on Fox are grimly apparent in the commercial, which shows the actor seated in a dimly lit hotel room, speaking directly into the camera.

"Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's," Fox says, his voice clear, but his head and body unsteady. "But George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research."

Fox has also recorded spots for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, who is running against Republican James M. Talent, and for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat seeking re-election. The actor is also planning to appear at events for two Democrats, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois congressional candidate.

"He wants to take on races and get involved in races that involve a pro stem cell candidate against an anti embryonic stem cell candidate," John Rogers, a publicist for Fox, told The Washington Post.

Fox, known for roles in the "Family Ties" and "Spin City" television series and the "Back to the Future" films, has long supported research that could lead to a treatment.

Fox agreed to film the Maryland spot after an associate met Myrna Cardin, the candidate's wife, at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee event in Maryland last month, Cardin spokesman Oren Shur told The (Baltimore) Sun.

Cardin has voted in favor of the bill to expand federally funded research, a measure that cleared Congress but was vetoed by President Bush.

Douglas Stiegler, executive director of Maryland's Family Protection Lobby, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said he felt it "is a shame that they're exploiting someone like Michael J. Fox for something that the scientists say is not going to do anything."

Steele campaign spokesman Doug Heye said he considered the ad "in extremely poor taste."