Justin Timberlake Says He ‘Had His Wires Crossed’ When He Exposed Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl

Jesse Grant/Getty Images
Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Apparently, Justin Timberlake, in true Man of the Woods fashion, is getting real self-reflective these days.


In an interview with Beats 1 Radio, Timberlake, who is getting ready to perform in next month’s Super Bowl halftime show, was asked about what transpired the last time he was on that same stage 14 years ago.

You know what we’re talking about: nipple-gate.

According to Pitchfork, Timberlake told interviewer Zane Lowe that he had “stumbled through [the performance], to be quite honest.” 

“I had my wires crossed and it’s just something that you have to look back on and go, like, ‘OK, well, you know, you can’t change what’s happened, but you can move forward and learn from it.’”

It’s unclear what the hell Timberlake learned from it—especially since the brunt of the punishment was doled out on his co-performer, Janet Jackson, whose nipple he exposed during his set.

To recap: Despite being the man who tore off Jackson’s bustier, Jackson was blacklisted by Viacom, which didn’t air her music videos on MTV and VHI and banned her music from their radio stations. The move against Jackson was a vengeful one—after the controversial performance, the NFL announced that it was “unlikely” CBS and MTV, both owned by Viacom, would produce another halftime show. The Federal Communications Commission hit CBS with a huge $550,000 fine (which was later thrown out). According to CNN, Jackson also reportedly lost work, dropping out of playing Lena Horne for a TV project in the aftermath of nipple-gate.

The same didn’t apply to Timberlake.

Billboard magazine captured the discrepancy:

Timberlake, the one who actually committed the physical act of exposing Jackson, skirted under the radar with a quick statement to Access Hollywood (“hey man, we love giving you all something to talk about,” he said), Jackson was made a public example of; the new millennium’s modern witch put on trial.

On the Monday after the incident at Super Bowl Sunday, CBS had Jackson release a written statement apologizing, taking full blame for what they were now calling an unfortunate “accident.” “The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended–including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.” Then on Tuesday, the networks asked Jackson to tape and release a video apology, reiterating her decision to change up the performance.


Mind you, nipple-gate happened during Timberlake’s portion of the set.

It’s unclear whether Timberlake addresses any of this in the Beats 1 Radio interview, which airs Thursday. Pitchfork reports that Lowe asked Timberlake if he and Jackson “took some time to do that after the fact and kind of resolve the situation and were able to make peace of the whole thing.”


I’m not sure what that “question” is supposed to mean, exactly. I’m assuming that Lowe’s just asking if Timberlake and Jackson are good, to which Timerblake responded, of course:


Because what else was he going to say?

“I don’t know that a lot of people know that,” Timberlake continued. “I don’t think it’s my job to do that because you value the relationships that you do have with people.”


Again, I’m not sure what all that means. Timberlake seems intent on talking about nipple-gate in the vaguest of terms, and still without an explicit apology to Jackson for the disproportionate punishment she was dealt for the stunt that happened literally under his hand.

Timberlake did speak pretty clearly about his decision to return to the Super Bowl.


“To be honest, it wasn’t too much of a conversation,” he said. “It’s just one of those things where you go, like ... ‘What do you want me to say? We’re not gonna do that again.’”

Welp. Unless Timberlake wants to remix “Cry Me a River” to “Janet, I’m Sorry,” he can keep it.

Staff writer, The Root.



I will be bitter FOREVER for what this did to Janet. I see kids coming up today who really don’t understand her impact because it didn’t just stall her career, it denied her her legacy. And for this white boy with a wannabe fro, who spent the first half of his career successfully apeing MJ and JJ’s moves and sounds to the uninitiated (read: wypipo), to step  over her in the wreckage and build a castle on mediocrity, makes my blood run cold. He should’ve been an ellipses, in a footnote, in the boring section of her story.