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Justin Timberlake apologizes not just to Britney Spears, but Janet Jackson too

Justin Timberlake in a black suit
Justin Timberlake walks the red carpet at the 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame induction in New York.
(Brad Barket / Associated Press)

Pop musician Justin Timberlake has apologized to fellow artists Britney Spears and Janet Jackson after FX’s “Framing Britney Spears” documentary landed him in hot water.

The “Say Something” hitmaker’s social media accounts have been flooded with outraged comments in the wake of the buzzy new documentary, which makes the case that Timberlake waged a smear campaign against Spears after the celebrity couple’s relationship ended in 2002.

“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” Timberlake said in a statement released Friday on social media.

“I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

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Controversy over the Spears documentary has also dredged up an incident in which Timberlake accidentally exposed Jackson’s nipple by pulling away part of her costume while guest-starring in her performance at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

Dubbed “Nipplegate” at the time, the infamous wardrobe malfunction prompted a public outcry and an investigation launched by the Federal Communications Commission, which hit CBS with a hefty fine for the disturbance. But it was Jackson who ended up shouldering much of the blame, and her career suffered for it as Timberlake’s star continued to rise.

Despite issuing multiple apologies, Jackson was not permitted to attend the Grammy Awards that year, while the Recording Academy welcomed Timberlake back after he agreed to apologize on air. And MTV, which produced the halftime show in 2004, stopped airing Jackson’s music videos.

Timberlake has also been invited back to the Super Bowl stage, while Jackson has not performed at another Super Bowl since.

Justin Timberlake, Diane Sawyer, Shawn Mendes and Katy Perry are being criticized for their past behavior in light of FX’s new Britney Spears film.

“I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed,” Timberlake continued in Friday’s statement.

“The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.”

In a 2006 interview with MTV, Timberlake acknowledged he “probably got 10 percent of the blame” for the halftime-show blunder and said that “America’s harsher on women” and “ethnic people.” Jackson also told Oprah Winfrey that Timberlake had reached out to her personally and that she would respond “in my own time.”

The justices will consider whether federal regulators can impose large fines.

As for Spears, the FX documentary argues that Timberlake painted his fellow “Mickey Mouse Club” alum as an unfaithful villain in the media after their split, culminating with the vindictive music video for Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River.” It also features audio from a 2002 radio interview in which Timberlake bragged about their sex life.

As a result, Spears was largely blamed for the breakup by powerful media figures, including veteran journalist Diane Sawyer, who confronted Spears about Timberlake in a high-profile 2003 interview that brought the "...Baby One More Time” artist to tears.

“I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career. I know this apology is a first step and doesn’t absolve the past,” Timberlake wrote in his apology. “I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this as well as be a part of a world that uplifts and supports. I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.”

Britney Spears’ protracted conservatorship continues after a Thursday court hearing amid renewed interest in her case stoked by a new documentary.

Read Timberlake’s complete remarks below.

I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond. I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.

I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.

I also feel compelled to respond, in part, because everyone involved deserves better and most importantly, because this is a larger conversation that I wholeheartedly want to be a part of and grow from...

The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.

I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career. I know this apology is a first step and doesn’t absolve the past. I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this as well as be a part of a world that uplifts and supports.

I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.


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