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R&B divas keep their distance

Beyonce, Elliott, Keys avoid talking about Jackson
/ Source: Reuters

When it comes to the Janet Jackson breast scandal, solidarity among her fellow R&B superstars appears to only go so far.

At a news conference on Thursday to promote an upcoming joint tour, younger divas Beyonce Knowles, Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott largely dodged the issue of Jackson’s televised indiscretion after reporters sought comment over the objections of a publicist.

“I’m a big fan of Janet,” Elliott finally said. “I’m not here to judge ... I stand behind her always, so that’s all I have to say about it.”

Keys chimed in with an “Absolutely,” while Knowles sidestepped a question about Jackson’s state of mind during a photo shoot the day after the Super Bowl.

The lack of enthusiastic support seemed palpable as the 37-year-old Jackson deals with fallout from Sunday’s Super Bowl in Houston, where her right breast was exposed during the half-time show.

Jackson, who has apologized for the incident, is said by her publicist to have bowed out of Sunday’s Grammy Awards, where she was due to introduce a tribute to stroke-afflicted soul singer Luther Vandross.

Spokesmen at CBS, which will air the telecast, declined to comment on her involvement, but syndicated TV news show “Extra” reported Thursday that she has been replaced by Patti Labelle.

Pop singer Justin Timberlake, Jackson’s partner-in-crime at the Super Bowl, remains on the Grammys roster as a performer, while Keys and Knowles also will perform.

The breast-flashing stunt by Jackson, who is due to release her first album in three years next month, has inadvertently spurred a federal probe into television broadcasting. NBC has decided to delete a brief shot of an elderly woman’s breast from Thursday’s episode of medical drama “ER,” while CBS and ABC will air their respective Grammy and Academy awards shows on a tape delay in the event of any naughty behavior.

The unnamed Knowles-Keys-Elliott tour of U.S. arenas, meanwhile, will begin March 12 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

“It’s about females coming together and being able to work together, and we haven’t had that,” Elliott said, referring to the tour’s all-black talent lineup. “This is like history in the making.”