Sunday, February 8th, 2004

On CNN last night…

HOWARD KURTZ, host CNN “Reliable Sources” show: Let’s talk about tonight Grammy awards. It’s not clear whether Janet Jackson is showing up or is disinvited, but Justin Timberlake, why is he being allowed to even show his face? I mean, if I reach over — well, let’s not go there.

GLORIA BORGER, co-host of CNBC’s “Capital Report”: Show his face, much less anything else.

KURTZ: He’s the guy who liberated Janet Jackson’s breast. Why does he get to go on national television a week later?

BORGER: Well, you know, this is the question that I’ve talked to a lot of women about this, actually. Because while none of us believe Janet Jackson did the right thing, we also believe that she is taking the complete fall for this, that Justin Timberlake has distanced himself from Janet Jackson, saying nice things like, “I didn’t need this for my career.”

And yet he gets to go on the Grammies and sing tonight and she doesn’t.

KURTZ: Right after the — Right after the event he was seen on “Access Hollywood” saying, “This is pretty cool. We gave people something to talk about.”

And later he’s all “I’m clearly so sorry.”

BORGER: Really too different — Clearly too different stories.

KURTZ: Right.

BORGER: When you dissect it. But guess what? He gets to sing.

KURTZ: Jeff Greenfield, CBS dangles goodies before Jessica Lynch to try to get an interview with her.

CBS makes that music special deal with Michael Jackson, where he got a lot of money.

CBS then has MTV, you know, produce this halftime show, which not only featured this moment we keep talking about but, you know, rap lyrics like I want to get you naked.

Isn’t there a pattern of bad judgment here?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN senior analyst: They’ve had a bad track on this. I mean, you know, you could also raise some questions, since they were so shocked at this, they did have to approve the ads they ran at $2.3 million for 30 seconds, that featured, among other things, a dog biting a man’s crotch, a flatulent horse and a monkey making sexual advances to a woman.

So, you know, that used to be the Tiffany network and I guess they’re just in the same primordial ooze that the rest of us are in, looking those of us who look at it so we can comment on it while watching the tape 500 times.

KURTZ: So your view — you view, Jeff. You use the term hypocrisy bowl. There’s hypocrisy plenty to go around, because everybody who’s anywhere near a camera gets to both exploit this and denounce it and joke about it and hopefully get people to watch.

GREENFIELD: Yes, I mean, it’s kind of like the, you know, the confession magazines of the ’50s that used to run these lurid stories about sexual perversion while having the attitude of “Isn’t it terrible. Let us show you this again so you’ll know just how bad it is.” Yes.

KURTZ: So aren’t the networks, not to mention newspapers and magazines, which have run many, many articles on this, aren’t they as bad as Janet Jackson? She allowed the exposure, and everybody else is going to make sure that we never ever forget it.

MELINDA HENNEBERGER, reporter for “Newsweek” magazine: I don’t know, but I do think that overall the coverage has been valid. Because I think for a lot of people…

KURTZ: Not excessive?

HENNEBERGER: I’m not so sure, because I think a lot of Americans were really upset about it. I mean, if the FCC got 200,000 calls and e-mails on it, I think we have to respond, too.

KURTZ: But Gloria Borger keeps replaying it on her show.

BORGER: I keep replaying it. Well, and then we have debates over Justin Timberlake and over — but, you know, it’s also to be fair. Let’s just — it’s a diversion. It’s sort of a fun story at Janet Jackson’s expense.

KURTZ: Not Iraq.

BORGER: Yes. It is not Iraq. We are a nation at war. We deal with that. But that is one of those diversions that we can all relate to, because some of us got to watch it with our children, and we really didn’t think that was a terrific idea.

And I agree with Jeff. I thought a lot of those ads on erectile dysfunction and the rest during the Super Bowl were probably not a great idea either…

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