The 2004 Super Bowl halftime show incident wherein Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s outfit to expose a breast to the Super Bowl audience apparently bothered CBS CEO Les Moonves so much he spent the next few years trying to ruin Jackson’s career.
Moonves, who is now facing multiple allegations of workplace sexual misconduct, went out of his way in an effort to punish Jackson after the wardrobe malfunction, which occurred during a CBS Super Bowl broadcast. That’s via a Yashar Ali report at the Huffington Post:
Moonves, however, was convinced it wasn’t a malfunction, but rather an intentional bid to stir up controversy. Moonves has been open about the fact that the incident caused him embarrassment, and he told sources who spoke to me that Jackson, in his mind, was not sufficiently repentant.
Moonves banned Jackson and Timberlake from the 2004 Grammys broadcast airing on CBS the week after the Super Bowl. But Timberlake was allowed to perform after he tearfully apologized for the incident, according to conversations Moonves had with my sources.
The CBS chief executive, according to sources who spoke to me, was furious that Jackson didn’t make a similarly contrite apology to him. The fallout from the incident inflicted significant damage on Jackson’s career ― which until that point had produced 10 No. 1 hits ― and still reverberates to this day.
If you’re wondering what kind of influence Moonves could have on a musician’s career, especially an established star at the time like Jackson, it’s important to remember that Moonves was, at the time, head of Viacom. According to the report, he went out of his way to bar Jackson from multiple outlets:
Moonves ordered Viacom properties VH1 and MTV, and all Viacom-owned radio stations, to stop playing Jackson’s songs and music videos. The move had a huge impact on sales of her album “Damita Jo,” which was released in March 2004, just a month after the Super Bowl.
It didn’t end there, either:
Seven years after the 2004 incident, Moonves told several sources he was furious when he found out Jackson had signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster for her book True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself. Simon & Schuster is owned by Viacom.
“How the fuck did she slip through?” Moonves asked while recounting the story to a source who spoke to me. He told another source that heads were going to roll as a result of the deal.
Moonves is now reportedly negotiating his exit from CBS in the wake of the #MeToo accusations against him. He’s likely to get something in the neighborhood of a $100 million severance.