Justin Timberlake Apologizes To Britney Spears & Janet Jackson After Widespread Criticism

The singer and actor has issued a public apology after a wave of criticism accused Timberlake of capitalizing on the misogynistic rhetoric against Spears.

Justin Timberlake attends the 2019 Songwriters Hall Of Fame Gala at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 13, 2019 in New York City. | Getty Images
Justin Timberlake attends the 2019 Songwriters Hall Of Fame Gala at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 13, 2019 in New York City. | Getty Images

Justin Timberlake has issued a public apology after receiving a wave of backlash from people accusing him of benefiting from his breakup with Britney Spears in the early 2000s and contributing to the harsh scrutiny Spears faced at the time. The couple’s relationship was briefly showcased in a new documentary that spotlights Spears’ legal conservatorship, which has given her father control over her life and finances for more than a decade. 

In a statement posted to Instagram on Friday, Timberlake acknowledged that his actions “contributed to the problem” and benefited from a system that “condones misogyny and racism.” 

“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 wrote. 

Fans and celebrities have rallied around Spears after the New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears'' premiered last week. The film catalogues her meteoric rise to popstar fame and the strict conservatorship that has been in place since 2008. 

Much of the documentary highlights the misogyny and sexism Spears faced from the media and American society at a young age, including her publicized relationship and breakup with Timberlake. In a clip from a 2003 ABC “Primetime” interview, Diane Sawyer asked Spears, then 21, “What did you do?” in regards to the breakup. She also pressed Spears about accusations that she was unfaithful. 

Sawyer said in the episode that Timberlake “made a kind of sport out of retaliation,” as he was promoting his first solo album at the time. Several people pointed out that Timberlake “capitalized” on their relationship and breakup, particularly with his popular single “Cry Me A River,” featuring a woman who resembles Spears in the song’s music video.

The backlash against Timberlake in the wake of the Spears documentary also resurfaced criticism of  his actions following the “wardrobe malfunction” during his performance with Janet Jackson at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Many people criticized how he handled the controversy and again accused him of capitalizing on the situation that disproportionately damaged Jackson’s career and reputation. 

“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. “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 part of and grown from.” 

He went on: “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 part of a world that uplifts and supports.” 

For some fans of Spears, the post is not enough. As one commenter wrote, “Now do it in a video and not in a letter written by your team.”

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