Pitchman Actor's Politics Draw Fire for MCI

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Published May 13, 2003

| FoxNews.com

Actor Danny Glover's (search) outspoken political comments could be a "lethal weapon" for his career as a high-priced pitchman if he keeps calling President Bush a racist and supporting Cuban dictator Fidel Castro (search).

A number of groups have threatened to boycott MCI (search) if it doesn't disconnect Glover from its current ad campaign, according to reports. The telephone giant said in a statement that it is reviewing the situation.

"We chose Danny Glover because of his high consumer appeal and ratings. In fact, these ads have produced some of the highest likeability scores for any of our spokespeople ever," the statement read.

But, added the company, "We are currently reviewing our options for new product campaigns that are more in line with our corporate brand advertising work."

A spokesperson for Glover, however, denied that MCI was ready to cut the line. "The relationship between Mr. Glover and MCI is categorically solid and successful and is continuing," the spokesperson told MSNBC's Jeannette Walls.

Forbes Managing Editor Dennis Kneale said last week on The O'Reilly Factor that MCI might be able to avoid addressing the problem altogether, since the campaign is not only making money, but is set to end soon.

"They have signed up half a million customers for the program that Danny Glover was advertising," he said. "These spots are going to end running in about two weeks. MCI might just be able to dodge out of this controversy entirely."

Glover recently called Bush “racist” in a Brazilian magazine interview, saying the president had pushed a “conservative program designed to eliminate everything Americans had accomplished" in issues of race and equality. ”Yes, he's racist [Bush]. We all knew that, but the world is only finding it out now," Glover was reported as saying.

Glover also joined more than 150 other artists like author Gabriel Garcia Marquez and actor Harry Belafonte in signing a letter published May 1 in the Cuban state-run newspaper Granma. The letter backed Cuba’s right to defend itself and decried a supposed “campaign” against the Latin American country as evidence an invasion by the United States and its allies might be imminent.

Kneale said he spoke to MCI and the company told him it had not known about Glover's political views. "This happens all the time in business," he said. "Celebrity endorsers -- you live by them, you die by them."

Others said customers will have to decide if MCI's choice of pitchman bothers them enough to find another phone company.

"All of us have to make our own decision whether we are going to use MCI or some other carrier," Mark Falcoff, of the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News. "It's as simple as that."

Castro has been something of a Hollywood darling over the years, and numerous celebrities have traveled to Cuba to meet him. Steven Spielberg called his time with the dictator "the eight most important hours of my life." Other stars that have praised Castro include Oliver Stone, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and the model Naomi Campbell.

But some of Castro's shine apparently paled after he jailed more than 70 writers and other political dissidents during the recent war in Iraq. As a result, many stars that had come out to support Castro fell silent.

HBO earlier this year told Stone, who was putting the finishing touches on a Castro documentary called Comandante, that it would not air the film until he made changes to it reflecting the recent crackdown.

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