General News

Super Bowl XXXVIII's "Tit"illating Moment Causes Major Stir

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Feb 02, 2004 | 11:42am EST

The talk around the water cooler Monday morning may be all about the Super Bowl, but it isn't the Carolina Panthers-New England Patriots showdown on everyone's lips.

Nor is it the ads, or even Kid Rock's defacement of the American flag by cutting a hole in the center and wearing it as a poncho during the night's only non-lip-synched performance.

No, what has everyone buzzing is Janet Jackson's boob-bearing antics during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.

After Jackson finished her duet with Justin Timberlake in which the former 'N Syncer proclaimed, "I'll get you naked by the end of this song," Timberlake reached over and tore away part of Jackson's black leather bustier, completely revealing one breast. But before some 72,000 fans could get a good look at Jackson's mammary gland, which was outfitted with a silver nipple ornament, the bright lights at Houston's Reliant Stadium went black, while the estimated 100 million fans watching around the world on TV were jolted by an abrupt ad break.

The big question is, were the two pop stars trying to top the contrived stir Madonna and Britney Spears elicited by kissing during the MTV Awards last summer? According to all parties involved--that's CBS, MTV, Timberlake and Jackson--it was all an accident. Before the game was even over, statements were flying as camps issued formal apologies.

CBS distanced itself from the controversy, saying, "CBS deeply regrets the incident that occurred during the Super Bowl halftime show. We attended all rehearsals throughout the week and there was no indication that any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended."

Music cabler MTV, which produced the halftime show, also apologized for the undressing, calling it an unpremeditated moment: "The tearing of Janet Jackson's costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance."

Although Jackson did not release an official statement after the game, her representatives told MTV News that she apologizes for the incident.

Timberlake, meanwhile, had this to say: "I'm sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable."

Wardrobe malfunction? As Judge Judy Sheindlin would say, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

According to Matt Drudge, top execs at CBS approved the musical number in which Jackson would expose her boob. "In a press release before Sunday's game, CBS's sister outlet [Viacom's] MTV promised 'Janet's Shocking Moments,'" Drudge reveals.

"The decision to go forward went to the very top of the network," a well-placed source from New York explained in Sunday's Drudge Report.

One party not laughing over the exposure is the National Football League. NFL executive president Joe Browne said in a statement: "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show. They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the show. It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."

Nor is the Federal Communications Commission treating this as a joke. In a statement, FCC chief Michael Powell called it "a classless, crass and deplorable stunt."

Powell said, "I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."

He told the commission to open an investigation, promising it would be "thorough and swift." Such an investigation could result in a fine of up to $27,500 or--if the FCC applied the sanction to each CBS station--in the millions.

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