It was the wardrobe malfunction that rocked the world—and the Federal Communications Commission.
In fact, the sudden reveal of Janet Jackson’s breast by guest star Justin Timberlake during her 2004 Super Bowl halftime show was the incident that coined the term “wardrobe malfunction,” as Timberlake used it to explain the still-controversial moment.
Timberlake issued an emotional apology and was quickly professionally redeemed for the incident (Black America remains undecided)—even being allowed to perform the following week at the 2004 Grammys ceremony. But Les Moonves, CEO and chairman of CBS, which aired both events, apparently thought the mistake should be a career-ender for Jackson and attempted to sabotage her success for years after the fact.
As reported by the Huffington Post, despite statements to the contrary from both Jackson and Timberlake, Moonves was convinced that no malfunction had taken place. Timberlake’s apology would prove sufficient to Moonves, but he purportedly told sources that Jackson wasn’t contrite enough about the incident—despite her not only offering several public apologies but weathering a barrage of criticism and paying a $550,000 fine to the FCC.
But multiple sources told HuffPo that Jackson subsequently became a target of Moonves’ vengeance over the course of the next several years, with CBS insiders affirming their belief that the mogul played a large part in negatively impacting Jackson’s public image since the incident. Several reported that Moonves expressed outrage and issued threats of firings upon learning Jackson signed a book deal with the CBS-owned Simon & Schuster for her 2011 New York Times bestseller, True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself. Yes, that’s a full seven years after the infamous Super Bowl halftime show.
“How the fuck did she slip through?” he reportedly asked.
A spokesperson for CBS declined to comment for HuffPo’s story, but given the fact that Moonves is currently facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation spanning the past 30 years, one shudders to consider what he believes Jackson’s contrition should’ve looked like.