We now know the power moves that were made regarding Janet Jackson being blacklisted from CBS, which started a downward turn in her career during the early 2000s. Turns out, CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves, who is now facing sexual harassment charges, was the mastermind behind the attack on the legendary singer’s career.
The Huffington Post reports that Moonves set his target on Jackson for years after Jackson had a “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl. The malfunction was thanks to Justin Timberlake, who removed the piece of Jackson’s costume in the first place, but instead of punishing Timberlake, Moonves reserved all of his anger for Jackson. According to sources who spoke to The Huffington Post, Moonves had made up in his mind that Jackson wasn’t sorry enough for the embarrassment she had caused him.
Timberlake and Jackson were banned from the 2004 Grammys, but after Timberlake apologized, he was allowed to perform. Sources to the outlet said that Moonves “was furious that Jackson didn’t make a similarly contrite apology to him,” leading to Moonves ordering “Viacom properties VH1 and MTV, and all Viacom-owned radio stations, to stop playing Jackson’s songs and music videos,” which hurt the success of Jackson’s then-latest Damita Jo album.
The impact also hurt Jackson’s film career. Jackson was slated to play Lena Horne in an ABC biopic miniseries in 2004. However, once the Super Bowl fiasco happened, Horne reportedly was disturbed at having Jackson play her, leading to Jackson taking herself out of the project.
“Some reports say that in standing with Jackson, (producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) also left the project. Other reports say that…they attempted to meet with Horne, and she refused, and that is when they decided to leave the project,” wrote Shadow and Act’s Trey Mangum back in February.
Moonves kept his grudge against Jackson years after the incident, even becoming angry when Simon & Schuster, now under CBS jurisdiction, gave Jackson a deal for her book True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself.
The sources all contend that Moonves was the mastermind behind how Jackson was perceived, and seeing how the plan played out in real-time, there shouldn’t be much debate as to how much power Moonves has in the industry. His ability as a white man in the business to nearly destroy a black woman’s career not only speaks to the amount of undue power race has in Hollywood, but it also shows how easily swayed the country still is by racial politics and stereotypes.
That type of unchecked power also serves as another lesson–the bigger they are, the harder they fall. According to Ronan Farrow’s investigation for The New Yorker, Moonves has been accused by six women of sexual harassment between the 1980s and late 2000s. Moonves actions include “forcible touching or kissing during business meetings, in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine” as well as physical intimidation and threats “to derail their careers.” All of the women believe their careers were hurt because of Moonves’ actions. Thirty of CBS’ current and former employees also corroborate the women’s experiences.