MCI Will Keep Glover as Pitchman

Despite the brouhaha surrounding actor Danny Glover's (search) anti-Bush remarks and support of Fidel Castro, MCI has decided to keep the Lethal Weapon star in its TV ads until his contract ends in January.

But the long-distance phone corporation also said it will ditch the campaign at that point and cook up new commercials.

"Our contract with Danny Glover runs through January 2004 and we intend to honor our contract," said a statement released by MCI.

"With the campaign having run its course,” however, the company will draw up other marketing and advertising plans that are “more closely tied to our new MCI corporate branding," the statement said.

Glover recently drew fire after he 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.

The star also was among more than 150 artists — including actor Harry Belafonte (search) and writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez — who signed a letter supporting Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The letter ran May 1 in the Cuban state-run newspaper Granma.

MCI was already in trouble after being dogged by the WorldCom accounting fraud scandal — the largest in U.S. corporate history — that eventually lead MCI WorldCom to file for bankruptcy in July. But the association with Glover sparked more controversy for the long-distance giant.

Many groups and customers contacted the phone company to voice their sentiments either for or against the MCI-Glover relationship.

Some like Judicial Watch (search) urged a boycott of MCI if it didn’t fire Glover. Others, including TransAfrica Forum and (search), argued that the actor’s political views and comments shouldn’t influence the terms of his work projects.

TransAfrica Forum ran a “Dial-in for Democracy” campaign, during which the group urged people to call or fax MCI to express their support for keeping Glover on.

“Dial-in for Democracy was not simply about defending Danny Glover and his right to appear in television spots for MCI,” said a press release issued Tuesday by the group. “It is about Danny Glover’s right to free speech without fear of being targeted and isolated from any entity with which he chooses to be associated.”