Janet Jackson says she and Justin Timberlake are "good friends" despite criticism the "Cry Me a River" singer has faced over his role in the "Nipple-gate" scandal during their 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance. The duo were performing in Houston when Timberlake tore open Jackson's top, exposing a breast that was bare save a nipple ring.
Though the fallout suffered by Jackson — including having her music reportedly pulled from broadcast — in comparison to Timberlake over the wardrobe malfunction has sparked backlash and a documentary of its own, the 55-year-old star downplays the controversy in a new video aired as part of her new A&E and Lifetime docuseries, Janet Jackson.
"Honestly, this whole thing was blown way out of proportion," Jackson says in a video recorded for fans. "And, of course, it was an accident that should not have happened, but everyone is looking for someone to blame and that's got to stop."
She went on to defend Timberlake, 40, sharing, "Justin and I are very good friends, and we will always be very good friends.
"We spoke just a few days ago. He and I have moved on, and it's time for everyone else to do the same."
Though Jackson and Timberlake both apologized for the Super Bowl incident, the former bore the brunt of the backlash. In Janet Jackson, she shares that Timberlake — who has been criticized for making lighthearted remarks about the mishap, including telling Entertainment Tonight, "Hey, man, it's every man's dream" — offered to speak out on her behalf.
"We talked once and [Justin] said, 'I don't know if I should come out and make a statement,'" she says. "And I said, 'Listen, I don't want any drama for you. They're aiming all of this at me.' So I said, 'If I were you, I wouldn't say anything.'"
The former boy bander has expressed remorse for not doing more to defend Jackson, telling MTV News in 2006 that it was "unfair" that "if you consider it 50-50, I probably got 10 percent of the blame."
"I'm a part of a community that considers themselves artists, and if there was something that I could have done in her defense that was more, that I could have realized, then I would have," he added. "But the other half of me thought to myself like, 'Wow, we still haven't found the weapons of mass destruction and everybody cares about this.'"
When asked by Oprah Winfrey that same year if she felt like Timberlake had "left her hanging," Jackson responded, "to a certain degree, yeah."
In 2006, Timberlake sat down for an interview with MTV in which he admitted that he could have done more in the scandal's aftermath to defend Jackson. That same year, Jackson told then-daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey that she felt that Timberlake had left her hanging "to a certain degree."
Timberlake posted a public apology to Jackson — and ex-girlfriend Britney Spears — last February after criticism about his involvement resurfaced on social media. The singer admitted that he "fell short in these moments and in many others and benefitted from a system that condones misogyny and racism."
The documentary also revealed that Jackson declined an offer from Timberlake to join him as he returned to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2018.
“When I think about it, would it be nice to be able to perform? Yes,” she said of the opportunity. “Our family, we love entertaining. But on the flip side of it, it’s stretching out the past, reliving something that happened over 10 years ago.”
She also shared that she was "disinvited" from the Grammys following "Nipple-gate," prompting then-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri to resign from its board in protest. Dupri also spoke out about reports that the wardrobe malfunction was a stunt planned by Jackson.
"It pissed me off a lot when people were saying she did this to create this hype,” Dupri says in the documentary. “The way people tried to play it was disgusting for me.”