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Fox: Symptoms are part of the message

Michael J. Fox says it would be wrong to try to hide his symptoms of Parkinson’s disease because they are part of his message on the campaign trail.

"The reaction is almost appropriate in a way because that’s the point. The point is here we are, we’re doing this, we’re dealing with these illnesses, these symptoms and these conditions," Fox said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on the "Today" show. "We have two choices: We either are ourselves, or we just go away and we send polite notes."

Fox has been stumping for candidates who support federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, which he says may one day lead to cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s.

In the limelightThe actor was thrust into political controversy last week after being criticized by conservatives for appearing in a Missouri political ad. The TV spot showed Fox visibly shaking as he urged viewers to vote for Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill over incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent.

Conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh suggested Fox was playing up his disease for the cameras, saying the actor was "either off his medication or acting." Limbaugh later apologized, but then suggested Fox intentionally took too much medication to induce the tremors visible in the ad.

Stumping in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday for Democratic Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, the star of television show "Family Ties" and the "Back to the Future" movies chided his critics.

"I guess I’m not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away," he told an audience of Brown supporters. "Or maybe I’m just supposed to go away. But I’m not going go away."

Later, he told NBC’s David Gregory in the "Today" interview that he doesn’t mind being the lightening rod for supporters of embryonic stem-cell research." By most polls 70 percent of Americans are favoring this issue, so in a way it’s put up or shut up time," he said.