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Interview with Michael J. Fox; Interview with Meredith Vieira, Richard Cohen

Aired March 17, 2012 - 21:00   ET


DONNY DEUTSCH, HOST: Do not adjust your set, America. I'm Donny Deutsch. And tonight, I'm filling in for Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Remember, Donny, I'm the heartthrob around here.


DEUTSCH: It's a great office. I love this.


MORGAN: And guys, just stay out of my office, yes?


DEUTSCH: All right, Piers. I got it.

Well, tonight, we got a great show. Michael J. Fox is here and he's going to talk to us about what it's like to be on the receiving end of a Rush Limbaugh attack and of course he's going to talk about his crusade to find a cure for Parkinson's.

And Meredith Vieira is here. Here's what she had to day the last time she talked to Piers.


MORGAN: I want to talk to you about exactly why you walked out on what many considered to be the best job on TV news? A lot of dirt --



DEUTSCH: Meredith and I are going to talk about that Lauer guy. And we're going to talk politics. And her husband is here. And they're going to talk about living with MS.

And "Only in America." The best hairdo race.

Donny Deutsch tonight, we're starting right now.

Good evening. I'm Donny Deutsch. The "Big Story" tonight, I am guest hosting for Piers while he's on assignment.

First up, my one-on-one with Michael J. Fox on life, Limbaugh and keeping America great.

Plus, Meredith Vieira. I want to know what she thinks about what some people say is a GOP war on women, and what she thinks about this DNC video.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that. Planned Parenthood, going to get rid of that. We're going to get rid of that.


DEUTSCH: But first up, Michael J. Fox. How are you, sir?

MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: Good to see you, Donny.

DEUTSCH: First up, how are you feeling?

FOX: Feel great. Feel good. I'm -- it's -- as I say, it's a beautiful day outside and that actually helps me and I do better when the weather is good, and I feel great.

DEUTSCH: Good. You know, well, you see Michael J. Fox and we hear Parkinson's and take me through a day. Take me through what's bad about the day. I mean, we see you on camera, we see you as a crusader. You go home and you've got your kids, your four great kids, your wife.

What is -- give me the heart -- take me through a day in the life and happening, just what it is to live with this stuff?

FOX: Well, I mean, the largest part of the day, 99 percent of the day, is the same as everybody else's day. As you said, you know, you get up in the morning and have breakfast and see my kids off to school. And when Tracy doesn't let me sleep in. If she doesn't have --

DEUTSCH: Tracy runs the show, right?

FOX: Tracy is the CEO (ph). The operation. And so fundamentally the day is the same as everyone else's. I have -- I -- when I wake up, I kind of -- my body will tell me what I'm going to have to deal with that day because it's very -- it changes day to day. So some days I may get up and I go, this is going to be a bear, or this is going to be relatively easy.

I mean, I may be able to forestall taking medication. Certain mornings I wake up and feel OK. And then I look at my day and I kind of sort of beat it out, almost like a -- almost like a performance, like looking at a script and saying, this is my script for the day. What am I going to bring to this scene, what am I going to bring to that scene, what am I -- how am I going to organize my energy, and how am I -- how can I be most effective.

And, luckily, I have a lot of stuff that I want to do on a day-to-day basis, whether it's the foundation, whether it's working or writing or, like I said, doing something with my kids. So I'm really fulfilled in -- and 20 years on, I'm doing a lot better than I ever thought I would be doing. I was given dire outlooks on how I -- what I could expect to feel and experience and be limited to 10 years out, and that was 10 years ago. And so 10 years on, I'm -- so I'm doing well.

DEUTSCH: You're on -- are you on drugs right now, as we speak?

FOX: I'm on all kinds of drugs.


DEUTSCH: So take me through your day. OK. All kinds of LSD.


DEUTSCH: Yes, right.

FOX: Methamphetamines.

DEUTSCH: Quaaludes, right. The whole thing.

FOX: Yes.

DEUTSCH: So what -- what --

FOX: I take Sinemet, which is a synthetic dopamine, which is -- it's one of the things we're doing. The foundation is trying to move past that or augment it in a way, because that's been the gold standard for 40 years in treatment of Parkinson's, but it loses effectiveness over time and results in side effects that are pretty outrageous, this thing called dyskinesia, which is this kind of random movement.

So we want to find out -- we're looking to find a better medication than that. And I balance it out with other -- Sleva (ph), which is an agonist, which is a drug that makes my brain produce as much of its own dopamine as it can. And a drug called Amantadine, which tempers the dyskinesia's side effects. So, yes, I'm on a constant regimen. But, as I said, that can vary, given what I'm faced with on a certain day. I take more one day than another.

DEUTSCH: Speaking of drugs, you were probably the most high-profile -- the last most high-profile targeted attack by --


FOX: You said drugs with Rush Limbaugh --

DEUTSCH: Well, we're not going to get into Rush Limbaugh with drug stuff, but --

(CROSSTALK) DEUTSCH: Just bear with me here, OK? 2006, you did an ad for Claire McCaskill. She's running for Senate. And we're going to take a look at that ad, and we're going to take a look at Mr. Limbaugh's reaction to that ad, as it may be.


FOX: They say all politics is local but it's not always the case. What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. Americans like me.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO HOST: In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has. He can control himself enough to stay in the frame of the picture. And he can control himself enough to keep his eyes right on the lens, the teleprompter. But his head and shoulders are moving all over the place.

See, this is really shameless, folks. This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting.


DEUTSCH: Yes, you know, I thought that was great. I thought you did a really kind of good thing there --


FOX: Again, I don't want to -- I mean my tendency is to want to make jokes about things, so I have to laugh when he says, remain within the frame of the picture, I mean, Rush, challenge him to remain within the same frame of the picture, but, you know, that's -- when I set out to support politicians that supported stem cell research, it was the only way that I could find to effectively push the kind of scientific freedom in the country and, really, we had a lot of people, lot of disease communities, if you will, had an interest and had a stake in scientific research and in potential of stem cell.

And so to have others disagree with -- in fact, the majority of the people in the country supported it, and President Bush limited the funding of it. And so to make this point, to have people have an ethical problem with it is one thing. And that's great, and we'll have a discussion about that, and that's why I entered the fray, was to have a discussion about it.

But to have it summarily knocked down and marginalized on the basis of personalities, on the base of he didn't like the way I delivered the message, and so his bullying instincts is to -- is to shut down and marginalize that voice, that's another thing altogether.

DEUTSCH: That's more than bully. That's a vicious bully. Let's just show his apology, and of course he did, interestingly enough, we put that apology up, his current apology against Sandra Fluke. There's a Rasmussen poll today that came out less than 30 percent of people actually believe it.

You've always taken the high road with this and it draw our attention. You're a guy that got into a lot of fights as a kid. Don't you want to just go smack the guy on the most guttural -- I mean, it is so -- it's such a level of vulgarity there, almost equaled by calling the law student a slut. I mean you had to just -- it had to be something like -- you just want to go knock the guy.

FOX: See, I didn't feel that way. I honestly didn't feel that way. I felt like -- I felt like he'd done the damage to himself and I think a lot of argument, a lot of our conversation, he has attack on me, an attack on my symptoms, I -- it wasn't about me, I didn't really care. I had a bit of a problem with the image of it, because I thought it was offensive to my community and to my Parkinson's community and to a larger community of people with disabilities.

It just was thoughtless and rude. But as far as me, I don't care. But he said I faked it. I didn't fake it. So he's impugning my honesty and my integrity and I -- coming from him, like that doesn't threaten me.


FOX: But with the thing with Sandra Fluke, I'm a -- I'm a husband to a wife and a father to daughters, and a son to a mother and a brother to sisters. And that was really offensive.

DEUTSCH: He called our daughters sluts, basically.


DEUTSCH: He literally got on the air -- I have three daughters; you have daughters -- and literally called -- and the advertisers now are speaking, you know, another article in the "Times" say 50 advertisers, there's a lot of dead air on a lot of his stations. This is going to hurt him and basically advertisers that are staying are voting that it's OK to say what he said. So --


FOX: -- is that, you know, I can yell and scream and wave my arms ironically, or whatever about what he said. But let the free market decide, and all the things -- I love there to be voices out there that I don't agree with. I love for people to say vile, offensive things because then I know who they are. And as a voter, I know who they are, and as a consumer, I know who they are. And they've identified themselves, and that's great. And all things being equal, the market will balance that out.

You know, there's this talk about Bill Maher. The difference with Bill Maher, he's on HBO, and he didn't have advertisers. He was once in the public sector and made statements in that, because it's billed on him.

DEUTSCH: Yes, they have. FOX: And he was relegated to cable. And so now I find it much less egregious in a way that the content of what he says, it may be offensive, but it's a different thing than this giant corporate- supported bully pulpit that this man has, and the way, again, he did the same thing with Sandra Fluke as he did with me, but as I said, it's more egregious I think with Sandra Fluke because he was --


FOX: Here's a private citizen expressing an opinion, which is her right to express, and it was sought out by people that we've elected to represent a point of view of the public. And she was knocked down brutally.

DEUTSCH: Yes, it's interesting. You're a public figure, so as you said, you know, you can take it. When you bully down just the average citizen, that's where Don Imus got in trouble, and he's going to pay for this. This is just beginning, I really feel that.

Let's shift to politics for a second. We've got an election coming up. OK, and it's interesting, we all vote and when I vote, it's going to maybe affect my taxes who wins. You've got a lot more at stake.

Let's talk if Rick Santorum wins, which is a real chance, obviously coming off two primary wins. The people are speaking. That party is connecting with him. And if he gets in office, of course, he is very vociferous against stem cell research. He gets in, how does your life get affected?

FOX: Well, I mean, he's spoken out against science. He's spoken out against education. And anyone would say that education is the pursuit of science. So obviously it will be -- it will not be good. But on one hand, I'm kind of hoping he gets the nomination because he will be very vocal on these issues and will set up a stark contrast that people will really see.

Again, I don't want to suppress ideas I don't agree with. I want to -- I want them, all things being equal, again, it was a vote -- things are equal. Those ideas can be met and dealt with. And so if he -- if he tries -- I mean, certainly if he was elected, it would be -- stem cell research would be shut down and all kinds of other things would be shut down, all kinds of scientific research.

I mean, there was -- there was a time when they were going after the science, they were going after stem cell research and other things. We (INAUDIBLE) sort of attacking all science. And someone said, "Fruit flies, what are they -- why are we spending money on fruit flies?" And science and fruit flies are a major model for scientific research. They -- many human systems they can be replicated in the model of the fruit fly.

So you get people who don't know science, railing about science, and it's dangerous to those who might benefit from it.

DEUTSCH: OK, we're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue talking politics. I want your score card on Obama. I want to know what you think he's done great, and I want where he needs to work on it.

We've got more with Michael J. Fox. Don't go anywhere.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alex, that's wonderful. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you congratulating him, Daddy? He didn't sing it that well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Mary, he got -- he got the job. You did get the job, didn't you, because you really didn't sing it that well?

FOX: I got the job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alex, that's great.

FOX: Yes. You hear it, Mama? I'm going to be the youngest executive in the history of O'Brien, Mavis and Clark. Mom, I am going to be rich.


DEUTSCH: We're back with Michael J. Fox. That was, of course, a younger Michael J. Fox on "Family Ties." Before we get to that, just something -- we went to break, and Tracy, your wife, was up there. You just looked at that, and you just said, what a beautiful woman. I mean, wow. Wow.


FOX: In many ways.

DEUTSCH: She's incredible. I mean --

FOX: She's an amazing woman.

DEUTSCH: She is as good as it gets, as they say.

OK, Alex Keaton. Would he still be a Republican?

FOX: You know, I always say he would be converted to being a Democrat now or be in jail. One or the other.

DEUTSCH: (INAUDIBLE) insider trading?

FOX: Yes, back in the days of Drexel Burnham.

DEUTSCH: Do you remember that? I remember when I see pictures of young guy in my business, I'm, like, who is that? Do you --

FOX: I sing like Mitt Romney, you notice that?

DEUTSCH: Yes, I do, actually. Look at that. You look good there, man. You look good. OK. Barack Obama. Let's give him a scorecard.

FOX: Well, I'm not a politician and I'm not a surrogate for --

DEUTSCH: Well, you played one on TV.

FOX: Yes. But I think he's done -- he's done reasonably well. I think that it's different to be in there than to be -- that to be aspiring to be in there. And I think that -- I mean, I think he inherited a big basketful of problems. I don't think he's really dealt with all of them. I mean, there are things that I would like to see dealt with.

DEUTSCH: Such as?

FOX: I think -- I think there's some issues around Gitmo and privacy and some other things like that that I thought -- I thought would be handled by now, just things that can mess around the edges that I thought might have been cleaned up and just from an idealistic point of view.

But I think that -- I think with the economy, he's done reasonably well and we're moving forward. I think I can't know what that mess was. I mean, in a way not being a politician, I kind of make my best bet on who I think has similar ideas as I do and similar sentiments and similar emotions, and similar meanings.

And so I've done that with Obama and then I just kind of look at it and say, OK, that's -- I have to assume he's done the best he can do. And I hope that he can do better. But the alternative doesn't appeal to me. So I would have to -- I'd have to say that he's done a pretty good job. But again, I'm not --


DEUTSCH: Has he done enough on stem cell?

FOX: I'm not a surrogate. Yes, he kept his promise.


FOX: He opened up the stream of funding. But with our foundation, you know, to me, it was -- it was about the scientific freedom. With our foundation, we funded over $285 million of research.

DEUTSCH: Largest -- other than the government, it's the largest --


FOX: Yes, so we're not -- it's not like we're standing there and saying to the government, fund this stuff, take care of us. We're saying just free us up. We'll fund it. We'll do that. We'll take it from there. Just don't tell us we can't pursue the best research that's out there.

DEUTSCH: So let's play this out, a Republican wins, and all of a sudden they repeal stem cell research. What happens to Parkinson's, what -- once again -- now you are the main fundraiser for this -- for this disease in the world. What happens then?

FOX: Well, we can't fund that. I mean, we have other avenues that we're of funding. Other things that we're funding in other areas that we're supporting, whether -- and we work a lot with Pharma. We work directly with Pharma. We'll fund research that they're doing and we'll give like $5 million loans or grants to multibillion dollar companies so they'll continue to work on compounds that are of interest to us, and because the pipeline is so expensive and so time- consuming that we wanted to keep things moving. So we'll continue to do that.

But, again, if you have people that, based on ideological reasoning, can just make summary decisions about what you can pursue, it would really be dangerous for us.

DEUTSCH: I asked you about your day-to-day and what it's like. As you're sitting here, are you -- are you struggling? Are you aware of trying to keep your movements in check? I want to get inside you, because we know you and I know you personally and you're a dear friend and such a special guy. Is this a fight for you every second, or is this just -- you're talking like I'm talking, and you --

FOX: No, I'm talking like you're talking, and I'm aware that I'm moving. And I strive for comfort and ease as much as I can more than vanity and appearance. I don't -- it's -- given that I look like what I look like, and again, that's ridiculous to -- the Rush Limbaugh thing. I mean, that's why, again, I -- personally I could care less. But knowing that there's a patient population out there that does struggle with this, that doesn't have -- it's hiding from employers, that is worried about insurance based on existing conditions, that is worried about the personnel at the store.

I heard a story about someone went to get a bottle of wine, and the guy wouldn't sell it to him because he thought he was drunk. People had really --

DEUTSCH: You hid it at the beginning?

FOX: What?

DEUTSCH: You hid it at the beginning.

FOX: Yes, I mean, so --

DEUTSCH: Not criticizing it, but I mean it's clearly something that it's just not easy to come forward with.

FOX: Yes. So it's -- yes, I hid it for seven years. So it's difficult for people and so to be kind of caricatured like that was hurtful to the community. But for me, I'm -- people know who I am; they know what I'm going through. They know the work that I do. So I don't have a -- I don't feel I need to hide anything, I need to cover up anything any more. And so it's different for me. So when you ask how I am, it's very -- it's easy for me to say I'm fine and I feel great.


FOX: Because I am secure and I have a great family and I have good friends and I have things to do and work to do that keeps me busy. But others don't. And so that's who we work on behalf of, and that's who -- that's who we have to protect, in a sense, in helping them know that the best research is being done and being pursued and is open and academics that pursue certain avenues are free to do it and not worry about -- I mean, because when we say government funding of stem cell research, it wasn't that they were -- we were fighting for the government to support those projects.

They were -- if they used pencils that the government paid for, and then couldn't do stem cell research. If they -- if there was any funding at all at the university or hospital that was doing stem cell research.


FOX: They would lose their funding. So it was really a broad paintbrush.

DEUTSCH: You've got four kids. What would you say if there's a young person out there, and just yesterday they found out they have Parkinson's, what would you say to them?

FOX: Just don't let -- don't let others project onto you what you're experiencing. Experience it, learn as much as you can, educate yourself, don't project as to what your future will be. Just experience one day at a time and leave yourself open to possibilities and know that others don't -- others that take care of you, that care about you, might want to say, oh, you feel this and I want to -- I'm going to take care of that.

And they don't know how you're feeling. And -- but if you respect and love them for their attention and their care, don't let them characterize what you're experiencing.

DEUTSCH: All right. When we come back, we're going to shift gears a little bit. You have creatively walked right into your Parkinson's, and you've done it with Larry David. And you played an afflicted character with Julianna Margolis and with Denis Leary. You've used it creatively. You've done some brilliant stuff. We're going to see that and talk about that when we come back.



FOX: Doc, I'm from the future. I came here in a time machine that you invented. Now I need your help to get back to the year 1985.


DEUTSCH: McFly, you Irish bug. You've certainly turned the corner creatively, and I got to start with the Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," whereas Larry -- whereas Larry David said, "The Parkinson's," and let's show a clip of that, and I want to talk about just this turning it around.


LARRY DAVID, "CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM": Because I did notice before you left you were looking at me and you kind of -- you know, shook your head.

FOX: Yes, my head shakes because I have Parkinson's. My head is shaking.

DAVID: And so you're saying it was a Parkinson's shake.

FOX: Yes. It wasn't a Larry shake.

Can I get you a soda or something, Larry?

DAVID: Sure, that'd be great. You know, I mean, the thing is, hit the rail (INAUDIBLE) mustache for everybody because it's really -- it's an interesting mustache and nobody could wear it, you know? Thanks. Jesus Christ. What the hell.

FOX: What?

DAVID: Did you shake that up on purpose?

FOX: Parkinson's.


DEUTSCH: When Larry called you, what did he say, let's do Parkinson's?

FOX: Yes, it was great. He called me up and said, he said, you know, the show is improv, so you just got to lay it the beats and the ideas of it, and then you kind of take it from there. And he said he wanted to do something about we being neighbors, new neighbors, and he's being passive aggressive that my -- that I'm directing my condition towards him.

And I thought it was just so funny and so great. And then he explained that other people would come to my defense and they would kind of be off, too. And I love that. I love that everybody's kind of -- nobody gets it except me. And which is really the thing. Nobody gets it except me. And you can't expect other people to -- you can have fun with --

DEUTSCH: So in that scene, it's basically, OK, you're going to shake up the Coke, spill it on me, other than that, it's just go and you guys (INAUDIBLE)?

FOX: Yes, yes.

DEUTSCH: That's good stuff. You guys know what you're doing there, don't you?

FOX: He -- well, he's brilliant. DEUTSCH: He is brilliant.

FOX: And it was so great. I really love that -- I love doing it and I love turning it on its head and again once you get past the vanity, once you get past how you look or whatever and you see --


FOX: What your life is and what you can do.

DEUTSCH: Brilliant.

FOX: Then you're freed up. It's actually really great.

DEUTSCH: You're always the nicest guy. Actually you were named the second most influential celebrity people to trust. Yet with "Rescue Me," you took a turn and you said, I'm going to play it big. I'm going to play it real Leo SOB. Let's take a look.


DENIS LEARY, "RESCUE ME": So we're cool?

FOX: We will be cool in about seven minutes.

LEARY: What do you mean? Oh.

FOX: Ten minutes of pleasure, seven minutes of pain.

LEARY: You're probably exaggerating. Oh, my gosh, it was probably only a couple of minutes actually.

FOX: Don't fight it, Tommy. Don't fight it.

LEARY: I'm not fighting it.


FOX: Hey.

Can you come back in like a minute, give us a minute?

LEARY: I'd like six minutes and 31 seconds.


DEUTSCH: Got to be more fun playing a bad guy.

FOX: He -- that character, Dwight, was -- was really fun. And what was cool about him -- and that was the same type of thing. Denis Leary called me up and said, I want you to play this guy, drug addicted sex maniac, you know, jerk, alcoholic.

And I said, you know, what made you think of me? And then he said -- and then he said, he was just paralyzed. I said, you know I can't stop moving. How am I going to play a paralyzed guy? He said, you're going to be great.

And what I liked about that character it's kind of like I would say that I chose to deal with my condition in the way that I have. But the choice I didn't make was that choice. That's a guy who lost his limbs -- lost the use of limbs in a car accident, drunk driver.

And he kind of went through the dark side and went to the loss. And so it was interesting, as funny as that scene and as kind of funny as some of the other stuff in the show was, to deal with the loss and to deal with being physically different than you thought you would be and having resentment about that was kind of fun, interesting to explore that.

DEUTSCH: It was interesting to watch an arch in a movie Tom Cruise and "Born on the Fourth of July." Started out basically as that character. And by the end, actually became the character that you are and obviously became a crusader.

Julianne Margolis, good wife, huge show. Let's take a look.


FOX: Tardive Diskinesia (ph) which is really -- it's a funny word for a neurological disorder. And it makes me do this and this and ahhh.


FOX: If you look at me long enough, you get used to it. So feel free to look, and I won't mind.

Now the good news is these pills, I take these every few hours. And they don't make the symptoms disappear completely, but they do diminish.



DEUTSCH: I'm going to give a new title to you, actor-vist. Is there a role that's not going to turn you on now? Forget whatever the physical challenges, is there a role that's not going to turn you on that somehow doesn't move the needle for disability or for Parkinson's?

FOX: Yes, I mean, sure. I mean, acting for me lately has been really fun. I've kind of amped it up in the last few years. I didn't for a long time. Again, believe it or not, with the medication, just like the character was saying there, it's much more predictable for me now.

And I can -- I can know that I can maintain a proscribed course of action I want to have for a character. I know I can fill out certain beats. And -- but it's interesting, I have to, in some way, acknowledge the -- the physicality of my condition. So there's a broad umbrella of things that I can use to explain it.

And hopefully I can get that out of the way just the same way this character did in the "Good Wife." He was telling the jury, you're going to see this stuff. And he was, in a way, using it to influence the -- how they felt about him.

But in a way, I have to do that, too. I have to -- there's no doubt when I'm trying to get people to act on part of our foundation, support our foundation, I'm saying, I have this. And it affects my point of view on this. And I hope to affect your point of view.

DEUTSCH: Before we go, I know Rush Limbaugh is a big fan of the show. He knows I'm on tonight, so he's specifically watching. Can you give him a shout out, anything you want to say to him on a personal level, right into the camera?.

FOX: Keep talking, Rush. Keep talking. We're figuring you out.

DEUTSCH: I want -- obviously people can tell the camera doesn't lie. It was interesting, before I started doing television, I asked you for advise. And you said, just be who you are. Of course, the camera doesn't lie.

And the camera doesn't lie with you. You are one of the true gentleman. People, they can tell, but they can't tell. Even you coming out, this was a special gig for me. And you coming out at night and doing this thing is the last thing you feel like doing.

So I thank you. And we're lucky we got you.

FOX: Well, you have been a big friend and a big supporter of the foundation. And I love spending time with you. And you're interesting and funny.

DEUTSCH: I still like your wife better, though.

FOX: My wife is -- you're smart.

DEUTSCH: Coming up next, my sit-down with one of the smartest journalists in America, Meredith Vieira.

FOX: That was great.


DEUTSCH: We're back. I'm Donny Deutsch, and I'm filling in for Piers Morgan, actually according to the crew, doing a much better job than Piers Morgan, not that that's hard to do.

And I'm joined by two of his favorite guests, the beautiful and the wonderful Meredith Vieira and the even more beautiful and wonderful, her husband Richard Cohen.

Guys, we got a lot to talk about. But before we do, Meredith, help me out.


DEUTSCH: This Lauer guy, OK. VIEIRA: Oh, my gosh.

DEUTSCH: They're talking about giving him like 80 trillion dollars a year. I don't see it. I do the show. He's a nice enough fellow. He reads off the prompter. He dress -- I don't get it.

VIEIRA: I carried him for five years.

DEUTSCH: Exactly.

VIEIRA: He's the idiot in idiot savant.

DEUTSCH: What do people see? As I said, nice guy, you need a fourth for bridge, OK. But --

VIEIRA: Al's a nice guy.

DEUTSCH: Exactly.

VIEIRA: You know, I think he has just got a great act. I really do. He looks good in those suits, the Italian suits.

DEUTSCH: The legs. There's something about the suits and his legs. And Roker, not a nice person? People think he is. Natalie Morales, not a nice person. Ann?


DEUTSCH: I always think the camera can tell. But no, OK. "Today Show," give me the worst interview you ever had.

VIEIRA: The worst interview I ever had. I don't want to --

DEUTSCH: You were like, oh, man.

VIEIRA: I'm not going to say who it is. No, I can't.

DEUTSCH: Just between us.

VIEIRA: A famous movie star who is a jerk.

DEUTSCH: No way, that's not possible. That's not even possible.

VIEIRA: Yes. Self-centered, full of him or herself. And I just sat there thinking, why are you here? I always wonder when people come on, particularly -- most people are gracious. But particularly if an actor or actress just sits there and doesn't deliver, I think, maybe you don't want to be here.

Act like you want to be here. That's your profession. Act.

DEUTSCH: One other thing, I hear -- Matt tells me when you come to "The Today Show" --

VIEIRA: You bring him up again? Oh, my gosh. DEUTSCH: When you come to "The Today Show," you actually go into his dressing room, to his office, and with lipstick, deface the whole thing. What is that about? And what do you write with your lipstick.

VIEIRA: Well, I can't quite divulge what I write with my lipstick, although maybe on this station you could. You know, he provokes it. You know he's a trouble maker. He's a practical joker. And so I would respond in like and write nasty things on his --

DEUTSCH: Tell us one nasty thing.

VIEIRA: I can't. It involves words that you're not allowed to say.

DEUTSCH: That I wouldn't know either. Let's shift gears a little bit. Richard, you have M.S. You were diagnosed at 25.

VIEIRA: You do?


VIEIRA: Oh, my gosh.


DEUTSCH: You thought that was a prop, like a British -- the whole thing, like Michael J. Fox acting for Limbaugh. First time they tell you at 25, what goes through your head?

COHEN: Well, I didn't freak out because I knew nothing about the illness. And I sat there and I thought, I don't know enough to react. And in a funny way, I still haven't reacted. That's probably part denial and part determination to keep going.

And that's the thing with -- about chronic illness or neuro degenerative illnesses, such (INAUDIBLE). You just have to keep going.

DEUTSCH: As a man, I want to just -- just bear with me for a second. Over this past summer, I hurt my back. On a scale, what you're dealing with is a million. That's an infinitesimal. But it threw me. I got depressed because I couldn't do what I normally do for the first time.

And I'm not embarrassed to say I got depressed over it. And I think about what you deal with. And you just have this great attitude, I can see it. What is the key?

COHEN: There's no hierarchy of suffering.

DEUTSCH: No, there is. Unfortunately, I think there is. You just -- this is obviously, it's -- I don't want to say, you know, taken over your life because it hasn't. But it's become a part. How do you just -- what's the magic? It's not her, certainly. Because that's like an anchor.

COHEN: She's as tough as M.S., tougher in some ways. There are no heroes. There are no medals. You know, a good life, a happy life, a successful life, a great family, a career are their own rewards.

I feel bad -- I feel bad for people who decide to be victims. That's a horrible way to live.

DEUTSCH: And when you met him, he already was diagnosed with M.S.

VIEIRA: Yes, he was 25 when he was diagnosed.

DEUTSCH: a lot of people would have been, oh, you know. And you just ran right into it.

VIEIRA: Well, you know, I didn't know a lot about the illness. But I think my attitude was, I cared about this person. You can get hit by a bus tomorrow. Nobody knows what is going to happen.

And I -- I let my emotion guide me and my heart guide me. And I'll never regret it. Occasionally I regret it, but usually not.

DEUTSCH: It was interesting, Michael was telling me about how Tracy is his rock. And you're clearly Richard's rock. But in some ways, it's not tougher on you, but you can't even -- sometimes Richard can say, I'm the guy. I can feel this way. You have to be strong for him. You've got to be strong for you.

VIEIRA: Richard is the first one to say I don't have to be. So I'm allowed to get angry when this whole situation makes me angry. I'm allowed to feel sorry for myself at times when I do. I think that's important. When you're -- it's a family illness.

DEUTSCH: Your kids --

VIEIRA: You have to be able to take openly about it and about your own feeling in relation to illness. I think it's wrong to suppress it.

COHEN: Kids take their cues from the parents. I think our kids see the way we deal with it. They see how independent I am. They see that I don't miss a day at work. They see that I don't feel sorry for myself. So why would they?

DEUTSCH: We're going to take a break, guys. I still don't know what you're doing with her. But we'll get back here in a secret. And we're going to find out the secret to 35 years of a happy marriage. And we're going to talk women, one of my favorite subjects, and politics. Don't go anywhere.


DEUTSCH: We're back with my guests tonight, Meredith Vieira and Richard Cohen. Before we get to politics, OK, you guys have been married how long?


DEUTSCH: As somebody who was in there punching, who has kind of give it his best shot maybe once, maybe twice, give me the secret? What's the secret, seriously, all kidding aside?

COHEN: I think a sense of humor, flexibility and the ability to walk away.

VIEIRA: The ability to walk away? What the heck does that mean?

COHEN: I don't mean -- I mean walk away from bad moments.


COHEN: That's it. I'm out of here.


I have an ability to really forget stuff. Sometimes I don't remember that it has been as long as it has. No, I think it's sense of humor. A lot of it is sense of humor and communication. Yeah.

DEUTSCH: Let's move on to some serious stuff.

VIEIRA: Does that help you in your own?

DEUTSCH: No, we don't have enough time to help me. There aren't enough couches on the planet.

OK, DNC, a new ad. I want to watch it and I want you guys to talk about it.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that.

Planned Parenthood, going to get rid of that.


DEUTSCH: OK, Richard, you're a political writer. The Republicans can not win with a 20 percent gender gap. They've gone from five to 20 percent down. You see that ad, forget politics aside, what is your reaction, just from getting somebody elected?

COHEN: Planned Parenthood for the Christian right is a symbol. And all you have to do is say those two words. You know, they remind me of sort of the American equivalent of the Taliban. You know, they want to drag women back to a different point in time.

And yes, there's this huge gender gap. And they're not just going to lose independents. They're going to lose Republican women.

DEUTSCH: Meredith, as a journalist, as a woman, you see -- and we can play hours of various candidates, various both media people on the left and right and candidates, but mostly on the right, just basically saying women, we don't -- you know, on a mass level, that's OK.

What am I missing here. They can't win this way? VIEIRA: I agree with you. But they obviously appeal to a certain segment of the population, including some women who would agree with that statement. There are women who don't believe in Planned Parenthood. And I think that they're speaking to them as well.

But I walk a fine line because I am a journalist. I can't really give my opinion.

DEUTSCH: It's neither a question of whether you're pro-choice or anti-abortion. It's a question of strategically, I can't understand how these guys think they're going to get elected just taking such a staunch line there. They've got to play the base obviously now. But is it going to come back to bite them?

COHEN: I have never seen the Republican party dragged this far to the right in the primary process. And I think it's the influence of Santorum. And I think people are afraid of him. I think he has an appeal to the activists who tend to be -- the activists tend to be the pro-life people, the Christian right.

DEUTSCH: I will have to say one thing that is very interesting, and this goes back to a theory I have always, that people vote for people and not issues. I disagree with just about everything Santorum stands for.

VIEIRA: We just had this conversation. He's authentic.

DEUTSCH: He's a real guy. I don't dislike him. Whereas Romney is up there, and that's what he's connecting with. I stand up there and I just go, but I respect the guy. I disagree with everything he says. And that's what people want.

VIEIRA: But his story remains true. He's always true to who he is. And I think you feel that whether you agree with him or not.

DEUTSCH: Have you ever watched a campaign, any primary campaign on either side, where they just -- they can't bite. They can't -- because Obviously, Republicans always it's nest in line, and they just ain't buying it. Have you seen anything like this?

VIEIRA: To this extent, no. Have you, Richard, to this extent? I don't think so.

COHEN: No, I don't think so. But I think -- I think the effect of Santorum's success is pulling everybody in that direction. And it's suicidal. But -- and it's not shocking that Romney is pandering one more time in that direction.

The question is, how are they going to find their way back for the general election.

DEUTSCH: I want to shift back a little bit to you obviously watched the Michael J. Fox interview. And strangely enough, the M.S. and Parkinson's -- I'm not saying they're competing with each other for fund-raising, but they are. And there are some schools of thought that says let's link it all together, and there's marketings of these things now.

So as somebody who obviously wants everything to be cured, but M.S. is clearly going to be first on your list, how do you come to terms with that?

COHEN: The NIH budget is frozen at about 30 billion dollars, which pays for about 2.5 months in Afghanistan. It's a very limited pot of money.

All these disease groups, these affinity groups go to Washington asking for money. They're not going to give one group money and not give another group money. The only thing they can do is raise the -- you know, to jack up the NIH bill.

DEUTSCH: When you look since World War I what scientific research has -- the way it's reduced heart disease and strokes, and yet we're not upping this budget. And as you said, 30 billion out of 1.2 2 trillion is still not a lot of money. And it is -- we're at a scary place here.

COHEN: Do you realize that the number of people with chronic illnesses, because of the aging Baby Boomers, has jumped in five years from 90 million to about 130 million people. That's half the population.

DEUTSCH: Guys, they're making me go. We could talk all night. Thank you for bringing Meredith here. It's just sweet of you coming along. And great to see you guys. And good luck.

VIEIRA: You're pretty good at what you do. I'll give you that.

DEUTSCH: Thank you for saying that. Coming up, Only in America. The bald truth about this country's president.


DEUTSCH: Tonight, Only in America can a presidential candidate be judged on what is on top of their head and not in it. If the past 50 years are any indication, the pest hair wins.

Let's trim the sides and bring out the highlights. 1960, Kennedy a no-brainer over Nixon's widow peak.

Fast forward to 1980, Ronald Reagan a papadore for the ages, a crowning landslide.

1992, Clinton/Dole, duh, enough said.

2008, Barack Obama breaks tradition and makes history as the country's first African-American president, but continues best hair wins tradition over an obviously overwhelmed McCain.

Which bring us to today and the top Republican candidates. Who is best to beat Obama?

OK, let's look at Romney and Santorum. Santorum, although sporting impressive locks, is showing some early receding, while Romney shows no recessive traits whatsoever. Romney the winner.

OK, now Romney/Obama. Wow, two follicle heavyweights. At this point, almost too close to call, but come November, I believe it will be Obama by a hair.

But that's Only in America. Beyond the borders, the bald truth is that other countries don't follow our lead. Russia opted for Mikhail Gorbachev, and you could have put the Kremlin on top of that dome. Mr. Churchill's comb didn't get much action, but he still managed to win the Second World War.

OK, Ike resembled Mr. Clean. I got it. And the Founding Fathers wore wigs. But in this modern America, bald may be beautiful, but it probably will not get you elected.

And by the way, Piers, while that wispy bouffant may work on your side of the pond, over here, this is what is considered the hard currency.

I want to thank Piers for letting me sit in tonight. Tomorrow, Rosie O'Donnell takes over with her guest, Hollywood legend Angelica Houston and Joel McHale. That's it for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.