Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, decried the showing of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show yesterday, calling it “a classless, crass and deplorable stunt.”
Singer Justin Timberlake pulled off part of Jackson’s costume near the end of the show as he sang the lyrics, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” exposing her right breast, which sported a metal nipple decoration.
Both CBS and MTV, which produced the show, have apologized for the incident.
“CBS deeply regrets the incident,” spokeswoman Leslie Anne Wade told the Associated Press.
Janet Jackson performing at Super Bowl halftime (Photo: MTV)
In a statement, 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.
“I have instructed the commission to open an immediate investigation into last night’s broadcast.”
While Jackson has not spoken of the incident, Timberlake has apologized.
“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.”
The risque duet ended a halftime show that pushed the limits of family entertainment and broadcast standards.
The show included:
- Janet Jackson grabbing her breasts;
- One performer repeatedly fondling his crotch;
- striptease cheerleaders;
- gyrating transvestites;
- simulated lesbian sex;
- Jackson and Timberlake groping each other.
The network quickly cut away from the shot and did not mention the incident on the air. But despite CBS’ apology, there are indications the incident was not spontaneous.
“We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show,” Joe Browne, NFL executive vice president, 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.”
Kid Rock during Super Bowl halftime show (Photo: MTV)
Wade said CBS officials attended rehearsals of the halftime show all week, “and there was no indication 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.”
But, in a press release before the game, MTV promised “Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Show Promises ‘Shocking Moments.’” [Editor's note: Sometime after the halftime show, MTV removed the release from its site. The link was cached by Google.com.]
The show, sponsored by Pepsi, wasn’t the only part of the event considered tasteless by some. Some of the commercials were also criticized by viewers.
“Then, just when you thought the commercials couldn’t get any more tasteless, we’re ‘treated’ to a talking chimp, blatantly asking his owner ‘babe’ if she would like to go upstairs to have sex with him!” complained viewer Jim Mitchell from Vancouver. “This, all on family prime-time TV? I for one think this has gone too far!”
AP reports 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.
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