Justin Timberlake spoke publicly about his controversial Super Bowl halftime performance for the first time Wednesday (February 4), saying that he was “shocked and appalled” when Janet Jackson’s right breast was exposed at the end of their performance.
“I do understand that there were a lot of people that were completely offended by what happened, including my own family,” Timberlake told CBS’ Los Angeles TV affiliate, KCBS, while at the Staples Center for Grammy rehearsals. “I think that’s probably the part that’s frustrating the most for me and it’s completely, completely, completely, regrettable.
“The fact of the matter is, I’ve had a good year, a really good year, especially with my music, even me personally. I don’t feel like I need publicity like this,” he said. “And I wouldn’t want to be involved with a stunt, especially of this magnitude. I immediately looked at her, they brought a towel up onstage, I immediately covered her up. I was completely embarrassed, just walked off the stage as quick as I could.”
Timberlake, who has five nominations at Sunday’s Grammy awards, also expressed frustration that his character has been questioned. “[A stunt] is not my style,” he said. “I don’t have any reason to do this.”
After Sunday’s performance, which ended with Timberlake pulling off a piece of Jackson’s costume as he sang, “I’ll have you naked by the end of this song,” he released a statement calling the incident a “wardrobe malfunction” (see “Janet, Justin, MTV Apologize For Super Bowl Flash” ). Jackson’s spokesperson later said a second garment was supposed to cover Jackson’s breast, but that it was removed accidentally.
“I was under the impression that what was going to be revealed was a red brassiere, a bustier,” he told KCBS on Wednesday. “I mean, I was completely shocked and appalled, and all I could say was, ‘Oh my God, Oh my God.’
“Later that night [I] was informed that they wanted to make a statement about it, and so I did. At the time, I explained what I knew, and now it’s turned into an unfortunate, incredibly huge situation,” Timberlake said Wednesday. “I’m frustrated at the whole situation.”
Jackson released a written apology Monday and followed up with a video statement Tuesday, noting that the costume-ripping ending to the performance was added after the final rehearsal and that CBS, the NFL and MTV — which produced the halftime show — had no knowledge of it (see “Janet Jackson Issues Video Apology For Super Bowl Incident” ).
Timberlake is still scheduled to perform at Sunday’s Grammys, which are also being broadcast on CBS, but his stunt has had consequences for another ‘NSYNC singer. JC Chasez, who was scheduled to perform at Sunday’s NFL Pro Bowl, has been axed from the halftime festivities.
“In light of what happened Sunday, we took a hard look at what he was going to perform and decided to move in another direction,” league spokesperson Brian McCarthy said Wednesday. “This is a reflection of what was communicated by the league on Monday. We said we are making changes and this is the first one.”
On Monday, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue called the Super Bowl halftime show “offensive, embarrassing to us and our fans, and inappropriate” and added, “We will change our policies, our people and our processes before the next Super Bowl to ensure that this entertainment is far more effectively dealt with.”
McCarthy said Chasez was planning to perform “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love)” backed by eight female dancers. The NFL listened to the song, discussed the routine and decided it was inappropriate.
“No one could be more disappointed than I that the NFL has canceled my halftime performance at the Pro Bowl,” Chasez said in a statement. “I’ve told the NFL I understand the pressure that they are under since the Super Bowl.”
Fefe Dobson was also scheduled to take part in the halftime show, but without Chasez to anchor the performance, her role, too, has been wiped from the halftime slate.
Instead of Chasez, a tribute to Hawaii featuring hula dancers, drummers and local singers that was initially scheduled for the pre-show will be the halftime entertainment. Sunday’s Pro Bowl marks the 25th year in a row the all-star game has been held in Hawaii.
JC was also scheduled to sing the national anthem at the game and is still talking with the NFL about doing so, McCarthy said.
This story was updated on 02.05.2004 at 12:27 p.m. ET