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"What's your stand on Time Warner?" That is the key issue for Republican presidential hopefuls as they jockey for position.

Senator Bob Dole of Kansas opened the subject with a blistering attack on the media empire's morals. The senator says Time Warner's catalogue of rap music and racy Madonna videos is "undermining the nation's moral fibre". And last month, New York's Daily News wittily renamed the company "Slime Warner".

The right's hysteria risks obscuring an important issue. Many rap lyrics in Time Warner's catalogue seem to glorify violence, especially when directed towards women. The National Political Congress of Black Women - not known for its support of Republican causes - has met privately with Time Warner.

The congress's spokeswoman C Dolores-Tucker says the meeting was not a success. "So far, Time Warner just don't get it." Last week, Time Warner sources said the company could try to shake the scandal by selling its rap music division.

The issue has apparently caused a split in the board. Henry J Luce III, the grandson of Time Inc's founder, says he is becoming impatient with Time Warner's chairman, Gerald Levin. "Management keeps saying it's complicated," says Luce, a board member and major shareholder. "I don't see that. Many of these rap songs are offensive and a poor reflection on the company."