CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Tennessee woman has sued Janet Jackson and others involved in her breast-baring Super Bowl halftime show, saying millions of people are owed monetary damages for exposure to lewd conduct, court records showed on Friday.
The suit, filed earlier this week in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, also names pop star Justin Timberlake, who performed with Jackson, CBS Broadcasting Inc., show producer MTV Networks Enterprises Inc., and the parent of those two companies, Viacom Inc.
CBS and Viacom said they had no comment on the filing.
The action seeks a court order to prevent anything like last Sunday's stunt from being repeated on U.S. network television prior to 10 p.m. local time when children might be watching.
It also asks the court to declare the matter a class action for purposes of damages. No dollar figure is mentioned in the suit, but it estimates that over 80 million U.S. viewers might be due compensation. CBS has said the game drew an average viewership of just under 89.6 million people. Advertising during the game sold for more than $2 million a spot.
The lawsuit is such a grab bag of failures to state a valid claim that I expect it to be dismissed at first glance. Most significantly, the plaintiff does not have standing to sue. There is no evidence she is member of the class she is allegedly trying to protect. Nor does she allege having a child harmed by viewing the two-second or so display of Janet Jackson's partially bare right breast. Furthermore, Congress has made violations of broadcast rules a matter of administrative law. The proper forum for resolution of such matters is the complaint process of the Federal Communications Commission. Rules against showing racy material during prime time, the remedy sought, already exist.
The rather hypocritical cavailing of some over the incident has had other consequences.
CBS has already said it would use an "enhanced delay" on its Feb. 8 broadcast of music's Grammy Awards so it can censor both audio and video as needed, and ABC also said it will use a delay on its Feb. 29 broadcast of the Academy Awards.
The lawyer who filed the lawsuit, Wayne Ritchie, a former state legislator, has been active in anti-civil rights activities for years, including opposing gay rights. His name also turns up at neo-Confederate sites, but I haven't been able to determine if he is an actual member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans or other similar groups. They are very active in Tennessee and seek out those with political connections.
There is a fledgling movement at racist sites to harass Jackson, including urging of frivolous lawsuits. This one could be the outcome of such sentiments. The worst I've seen is a site where the blogger has posted a picture of a bare-chested female gorilla to represent Jackson. He claims she is engaged in a campaign to overcome white people's aversion to the ugliness of Americans. I will not link to the entries.
Jackson's invitation to the Grammy's has been withdrawn, though Timberlake is a nominee and will appear.
HOLLYWOOD (AP) -- Even without appearing at the Grammys Sunday night, Janet Jackson's presence will be inescapable.
The singer was supposed to have presented a special award for Luther Vandross, but pulled out amid the furor following her Super Bowl performance.
Also avoiding the show will be Jackson's good friend, rapper and music producer Jermaine Dupri, who announced Friday he was resigning as president of the Recording Academy's Atlanta chapter.
"I didn't want to be a part of something that's not treating people in the right light," Dupri said.
"I feel like what's going on with Janet is unfair."
I have a feeling the event is going to be one in which the absence of Jackson casts a pall over the presence of her peers.
Jackson, Timberlake and the others involved in the prank, which I believe went farther than they intended, set out to tease a large television audience. The outcome may effect them, and us, for years.