Janet Jackson breast brouhaha

Outrage spread in the United States on Tuesday after pop star Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet Jackson’s bodice to reveal a breast during the US’s most-watched television event, sparking a federal investigation.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the main government media watchdog, announced an inquiry to see whether the display of flesh by Michael Jackson’s little sister constituted indecency.

After 24 hours of mounting public and official outrage, Jackson on Monday had apologised for the incident, saying it had not been planned until after rehearsals had taken place and that it had gone too far.

“The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my half-time show performance was made after final rehearsals,” Jackson said in a statement.

“MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologise to anyone offended, including the audience, MTV, CBS, and the NFL [National Football League].”

Jackson’s spokesperson, Stephen Huvane, was quoted by CNN as saying the incident “was a malfunction of the wardrobe. It was not intentional ... He [Timberlake] was supposed to pull away the bustier and leave the red-lace bra.”

Amid interminable television reruns of the bustier being wrenched off and speculation over whether or not it was an intentional stunt, Timberlake and the show producers also apologised and insisted it was an innocent “wardrobe malfunction”.

But FCC chairperson Michael Powell said he had been “outraged” by events during the half-time show of American football’s Super Bowl championship at Houston, which was watched by more than 100-million people.

“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,” Powell said in a statement.

Powell said he had ordered a “thorough and swift” investigation.

President George Bush turned off his television just before Jackson flashed her breast. But White House spokesperson Scott McClellan told reporters: “I think our view is that it’s important for families to be able to expect a high standard when it comes to programming.”

Instead conservative America got a surprising eyeful and activist groups were quick to complain.

Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the conservative Concerned Women for America, called it a “pornographic show”.

She accused the FCC of being too lax in enforcing indecency laws and blamed the NFL, which organises the Super Bowl, “for approving a pornographic halftime show produced by MTV that was totally consistent with MTV’s pornography that they produce all of the time.

“We don’t buy for a minute that this was not planned. Everybody knew what was going on here.”

The pop channel MTV has shocked viewers in the past with stunts such as Madonna’s lingering kiss with Britney Spears on the MTV awards last August.

The American Family Association (AFA) also said it was sure the Jackson-Timberlake display was deliberate.

“Given their history of sexual performances, this type of incident is standard fare. No one, especially those in charge of the show, was surprised,” said AFA chairperson Don Wildmon.

Timberlake and Jackson were performing Rock Your Body during the 18-minute interval show and Timberlake had just sung “I’ll have you naked by the end of this song” as he moved in to pull off a leather cup to expose Jackson’s breast adorned with a sun-shaped metal ring that pierced the nipple.

“I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl,” Timberlake said in a statement. “It was not intentional and is regrettable.”

CBS television, which showed the championship game, quickly apologised after being besieged with complaints.

“We attended all rehearsals during the week, and there was no indication any such thing would happen. We would like to apologise to anyone who was offended,” it said.

MTV, which like CBS is owned by Viacom, said: “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.”

But MTV’s website before the show had promised “shocking moments” during Jackson’s performance. And its first reports of the Super Bowl display proclaimed “Janet gets nasty”.

The NFL was fuming.

“We were extremely disappointed by the MTV-produced halftime show,” said commissioner Paul Tagliabue. “It was totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show.

“The show was offensive, inappropriate and embarrassing to us and our fans. It’s unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime.”—Sapa-AFP

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