Public Enemy splits with Flavor Flav over Bernie Sanders rally

March 2 (Reuters) - Rap group Public Enemy has split with founder member Flavor Flav after a dispute over the group's decision to perform at a rally for U.S. presidential contender Bernie Sanders.

"Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav. We thank him for his years of service and wish him well," the band said in a statement on Sunday, shortly before appearing with Sanders at a California rally.

Flavor Flav and Chuck D were founder members in 1985 of New York-based rappers Public Enemy, known for making music with a strong political message; their 1988 album "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" is considered one of the genre's most influential. Chuck D announced the offshoot Public Enemy Radio with rappers DJ Lord, Jahi and the S1Ws on Sunday.

Flavor Flav had earlier dissociated himself with the appearance by Public Enemy at the Sanders rally, saying that Chuck D did not speak for the band.

Chuck D said on Twitter he was supporting Sanders because of his pledges to bring in universal healthcare and childcare should the Democratic senator from Vermont be elected to the White House in November.

"It's no longer tolerable to just pontificate and not do shit. People gotta realize, whoever they vote for isn't going to be Jesus," the rapper said in an Instagram posting.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)