02/06/2004 at 01:00 AM EST
In a dance reminiscent of last year's question mark hanging over the Oscars – would the just-launched war in Iraq torpedo the ceremony? – the latest step in the on-again, off-again appearance of disgraced flashdancer Janet Jackson at this Sunday's 46th annual Grammy ceremony appears to be nope, she won't be there.
NBC's syndicated "Access Hollywood," which has been stirring the pot over Jackson's being there (or not being there), said in a press release dispatched midday in Los Angeles that the official word from Jackson's publicist Stephen Huvane is that the singer will absolutely not be there.
Just before "Access" sent its release, Nancy Carr, from the Los Angeles CBS office of Grammys publicist Chris Ender, pointed out to PEOPLE.com that it was "Access Hollywood" that so anxiously reported Jackson would be there – but only after the show had heralded the fact that she wouldn't be.
As such, Carr said as she laughed: "I'm going to have to decline comment."
Jackson had been scheduled to appear on Sunday's show to lead a tribute to singer Luther Vandross. Jackson, 37, had been slated to speak before the accolade but was being pressured to bow out gracefully – or face being uninvited, Grammy sources had told The New York Times and Washington Post. (Vandross, 52, a multi-nominee this year, is recovering from a stroke and is unable to attend the Grammys.)
Earlier, CBS had retracted its offer to have Jackson as a presenter for Sunday's ceremony rather than risk another boob-tube incident like the one that set off a firestorm after the Jackson-Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime show, according to "Access Hollywood" and "Entertainment Tonight."
A spokesperson for the Vandross family denies that they requested Jackson's removal from the presentation, telling "Access Hollywood" that they wish for "Luther's tribute (to) be left out of the Janet Jackson issue out of respect for him and his family."
Grammy nominee Timberlake – being called "the Teflon man," because the incident does not appear to be sticking to him – will appear at the show as scheduled.
The Grammys will air at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on CBS.