'I am deeply sorry': Justin Timberlake apologises to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson

Singer issues apology for ‘times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem’ and says ‘I care for and respect these women and I know I failed’

After public outcry stemming from the New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake has issued a public apology to the pop star, his former girlfriend, and Janet Jackson, his co-performer at the “wardrobe malfunction”-plagued 2004 Super Bowl half-time show, following accusations of racism and sexism in his treatment of both women.

In a statement posted to his Instagram, the singer addressed criticism that he courted attention at Spears’ expense following the teen superstar couple’s breakup in 2002, when Timberlake split with boyband ‘NSync and launched a solo career. “I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” Timberlake began his statement. “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.”

Timberlake continued: “I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

Since its release last weekend, Framing Britney Spears, a 75-minute documentary partnership between the New York Times and Hulu, reignited long-simmering conversations about media treatment of Spears and other female celebrities during the 90s and 2000s, as well as her legal conservatorship.

Timberlake began trending on social media last weekend after the documentary revisited the relationship through archival footage and critical distance. The union of the two Mickey Mouse club actors-turned-superstars inspired numerous magazine covers and intense teen fandom; their breakup, which tabloids largely pinned on Spears’ alleged infidelity, generated even more attention, much of it critical, on the 21-year-old pop singer.

“The way people treated her, to be very high school about it, was like, she was the school slut and he was the school quarterback,” says Wesley Morris, a New York Times critic at large, in the film. The public sympathy for Timberlake, meanwhile, coincided with the release of his first solo album and hit single Cry Me a River, whose video featured a Spears lookalike.

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears in 2002
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears in 2002 Photograph: Chris Pizzello/AP

“He essentially weaponizes the video for one of his singles to incriminate her in the demise of their relationship,” Morris said.

The 40-year-old singer specifically apologized to Spears and Jackson “both individually, because I care for and respect these women, and I know I failed”. Jackson, who was Timberlake’s co-performer at the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show, faced widespread media condemnation and was banned from that year’s Grammys after Timberlake exposed her bare breast on live TV.

Timberlake faced no professional consequences for the “wardrobe malfunction”.

“I think they put all the emphasis on me, as opposed to us,” Jackson said at the time. “I consider him a friend, and I’m very loyal. Friendship is very important to me.”

In 2007, Timberlake told MTV: “I think America is harsher on women. I think America is unfairly harsh on ethnic people. I could’ve handled it better.”

In a second slide, Timberlake wrote that the music industry “sets men, especially white men, up for success” and that he “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 can do better and I will do better,” he concluded.

Contributor

Adrian Horton

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Enquirer says sorry to Britney Spears

Celebrity magazine the National Enquirer has apologised for articles in its British edition that claimed Britney Spears' marriage was over. By Chris Tryhorn.

Chris Tryhorn

19, Jul, 2006 @12:05 PM

Article image
Sexy hardback: what will the Justin Timberlake autobiography be like?
With the pop star’s new book, Hindsight & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me, on its way, here are some (imagined) extracts

Sam Wolfson

12, Oct, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
Britney Spears: will the princess of pop finally find freedom?
I followed the singer’s ups and downs since her first hit as a 16-year-old. Now a new documentary has highlighted how harshly she has been treated

Leah McLaren

13, Feb, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Pink contribute to Orlando charity single
Two dozen stars, including Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige and Selena Gomez, have contributed to Hands, a song made to honor the victims of the Orlando attack

Nigel M Smith

06, Jul, 2016 @6:34 PM

Article image
Britney Spears musical heading to Broadway
The singer’s back catalogue will populate a new comedy based around a book club made up of fairytale princesses

Guardian music

12, Mar, 2019 @4:47 PM

Article image
Victim? Survivor? After 20 years of Britney Spears, the jury’s still out| Bidisha
There’s still time for the former pop princess to find her true voice, says the journalist and author Bidisha

Bidisha

25, Oct, 2018 @9:18 AM

Article image
Britney Spears taken to hospital again

Troubled pop star taken to hospital by ambulance for the second time in a month, according to Associated Press

David Batty

31, Jan, 2008 @10:40 AM

Article image
Justin Timberlake interview: 'I can count my friends on one hand'

Raised in small-town Tennessee, Justin Timberlake is the perfect Southern gentleman. So how does he square being a multiple Grammy-winning singer and an increasingly respected actor with his old-school values? Rachel Cooke digs deep

Rachel Cooke

03, Sep, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
First trailer lands for Netflix’s explosive Britney Spears documentary
Long-rumored film, directed by Erin Lee Carr and due 28 September, will explore legal and ethical issues of singer’s conservatorship

Adrian Horton

22, Sep, 2021 @8:15 PM

Article image
Britney Spears' Make Me and the new slow pop movement
Britney’s new tune, plus Katy Perry’s Olympic anthem, confirm that the days of frantic BPM are truly over and a more mellow tempo is taking over the charts

Michael Cragg

15, Jul, 2016 @4:46 PM