CBS apologizes for halftime breast-baring
Updated: Monday February 2, 2004 12:25PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The chief federal regulator of broadcasting was outraged by the Super Bowl halftime show in which singer Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson's costume, exposing her breast.
Timberlake blamed a "wardrobe malfunction," but Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell on Monday called it "a classless, crass and deplorable stunt."
MTV, which produced the show, and CBS, which broadcast it, both said they had no idea the halftime show Sunday night would include such a display.
"CBS deeply regrets the incident," spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade said.
The two singers were performing a flirtatious duet to end the halftime show, with Timberlake singing, Rock Your Body, and the lines he sang at the moment of truth were: "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song."
With that, Timberlake reached across Jackson's leather gladiator outfit and pulled off the covering to her right breast, which was partially obscured by a sun-shaped, metal nipple decoration.
The network quickly cut away, and did not mention the exposure on the air.
"I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. "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 instructed the commission to open an immediate investigation, promising it would be "thorough and swift." Earlier, FCC spokeswoman Suzanne Tetreault said it was launching a routine investigation because it had received complaints.
Messages left with Jackson's record company and her personal publicist were not returned Monday morning.
The halftime show didn't cause a stir at the White House because President Bush fell asleep.
"I don't want to admit it, but because this White House starts early, I missed it -- again," he told reporters Monday after a Cabinet meeting. "Saw the first half, did not see the halftime -- I was preparing for the day and fell asleep."
MTV, CBS' corporate cousin in Viacom, issued a contrite statement in which it also apologized, saying the display was "unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance."
Timberlake said he did not intend to expose Jackson's breast.
"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."
Wade said CBS officials attended rehearsals of the show all week, and "there was no indication any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS' broadcast standards."
The show also featured P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock.
"We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show," NFL executive vice president Joe Browne said. "They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show.
"It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."
Over-the-air television channels cannot air "obscene" material at any time and cannot air "indecent" material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The FCC defines obscene material as describing sexual conduct "in a patently offensive way" and lacking "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value." Indecent material is not as offensive but still contains references to sex or excretions.
In an interview posted on MTV.com in the days before the show, Jackson's choreographer, Gil Duldulao, talked about the show, saying: "She's more stylized, she's more feminine, she's more a woman as she dances this time around. There are some shocking moments in there, too."