Janet Jackson
via Andy L / CC-BY-2.0

By the end of 2003, Janet Jackson was already an icon; eleven American Music Awards, five Grammy Awards, nine MTV Video Music Awards, and 11 Billboard Music Awards. She had done multiple concert tours, had an immense amount of #1 singles and even dipped her toe into the acting pond. She was concert music royalty so it made since that she should perform at the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show with somewhat newly solo singer, Justin Timberlake. The halftime was a hit until this happened, literally in the last second of the performance:

It was a completely different America so the backlash was brutal…for Miss Jackson. MTV (contracted by CBS for the show) immediately threw Jackson under the bus, stating that it was her idea. CBS did too, stating that they attend all rehearsals and never saw anything that indicated this was going to happen. The NFL chastised both companies, as they were under the Viacom umbrella, saying it fell short of being “tasteful” and that they were gravely disappointed. 

Timberlake initially joked it off but later did apologize, calling it a “wardrobe malfunction.” However, CBS forced Jackson to make an video apology as well as a written statement apologizing and taking the blame for the incident (it was reported there was some discussion among MTV producers of Timberlake ripping an article of clothing off of Janet because of the closing lyrics.)  Jackson released no other apologies as she saw it as an accident, despite others saying it was a publicity stunt.

Les Moonves, the CBS CEO was embarrassed, furious and convinced that the incident was done to stir up controversy. He banned both Timberlake and Jackson from the Grammys the following month but Timberlake issued a “tearfully apologized” about the incident and Moonves found it adequate enough to lift the ban and let the singer perform at the Grammys.  He felt that Jackson, however, did not give a proper, sincere apology to his liking and set out to punish her by allegedly sabotaging her career.

He ordered all Viacom-owned radio stations, as well as MTV and VH1 to stop playing her videos and songs. This killed sales for Damita Jo, Jackson’s album that came out one month after Super Bowl. Moonves stayed salty at Jackson because seven years later, Jackson secured a book deal with Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of Viacom. He wanted to know “How the fuck did she slip through?”

It might be strange that Moonves was so fixed on Jackson and for so long, although to those who know him said Moonves regularly held and acted on grudges. However, more news came to light that explains his behavior.

Ronan Farrow, the reporter behind the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault piece that sparked the #MeToo movement, dropped another bombshell last month, this time about Les Moonves. Six women came forward to talk about their experience of sexual harassment concerning Moonves, and how he would forcibly touch or kiss them during business meetings, that, according to them was “practiced routine.” Like Weinstein, any woman that rejected Moonves was allegedly threatened, physically and professionally. The women were still reluctant to speak out, still fearful of retaliation, as Moonves’ practice of making and breaking careers was well known. Like Weinstein, Moonves held a lot of power and his reached went quite far; with that comes ego and manipulation that many, both men and women, have experienced. 

The silver lining is that the #MeToo movement is shining a light into the darkest corners with the awareness and that has led to Moonves stepping down as CEO. Jackson is doing great as well; she had a baby, released more amazing albums, has additional tours lined up and is committing to more charity work. Meanwhile, CBS said it and Moonves will donate $20 million of Moonves’ severance to organizations supporting the #MeToo movement.