But Flavor Flav, a founding member of the group, is objecting to the way that the campaign is promoting the event. His attorney has fired off a letter accusing the campaign of advancing a “misleading narrative” that Public Enemy has endorsed Sanders.
“The planned performance will only be Chuck D of Public Enemy, it will not be a performance by Public Enemy,” attorney Matthew H. Friedman wrote in a letter to Sanders. “Those who truly know what Public Enemy stands for know what time it is, there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav.”
Flavor Flav, whose real name is William Drayton, also is objecting to the “unauthorized use of his likeness, image and trademarked clock in promotional materials circulated by the campaign and its network of online operatives in support of Bernie’s upcoming rally.”
The campaign has been promoting the event with a striking poster from designer Kii Arens, with the phrase Fight the Power, a graphic image of Sanders and the words “Bernie Sanders + Public Enemy,” with the word “Radio” in smaller letters inserted in the “Y.” The campaign also has been promoting the event in press materials as an appearance by Public Enemy Radio.
Many media outlets have reported that Public Enemy would be performing, not making the distinction. In the letter to the campaign, Friedman wrote that the more accurate description would be a performance by Chuck D of Public Enemy.
“To be clear Flav and, by extension, the Hall of Fame hip hop act Public Enemy with which his likeness and name have become synonymous has not endorsed any political candidate in this election and any suggestion to the contrary is plainly untrue,” Friedman wrote. “The continued publicizing of this grossly misleading narrative is, at a minimum, careless and irresponsible if not intentionally misleading.”
The letter also was critical of Sanders, accusing his campaign of being a “fictional revolution.”
A Sanders campaign spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
But Chuck D gave a statement to Billboard in which he said, “Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this. He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he’s out.” A lawyer for Chuck D also told Billboard that he is the sole owner of the trademark.
Flavor Flav’s letter reflected rifts between him and Chuck D, which in recent years have included a dispute over royalties and merchandising. But Friedman, is a divorce lawyer, not a music lawyer, and in his letter he suggested that the Public Enemy billing was only making the tensions worse. He wrote that it was “unfortunate that a political campaign would be so careless with the artistic integrity of such iconoclastic figures in American culture.”
He added, “Sanders claims to represent everyman not the man yet this grossly irresponsible handling of Chuck’s endorsement threatens to divide Public Enemy and, in so doing, forever silence one of our nation’s loudest and most enduring voices for social change. Perhaps Sanders didn’t intend to sow these irreconcilable differences but, by and through his disregard for the truth, he has nonetheless.”
Flavor Flav signed the attorney’s letter with the note, “Hey Bernie, Don’t Do This.”