Last week, the new documentary The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears sparked a conversation about how the music industry, media outlets, and even fans create obstacles for female performers. In the aftermath, Justin Timberlake has released a statement apologizing to his former partner Spears, as well as co-Super Bowl performer Janet Jackson, saying, “I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”
Among other stories, Framing Britney Spears examines how the Timberlake-Spears relationship was covered by tabloids, newspapers, and late-night hosts, with Spears receiving shame even as Timberlake bragged about his sexual conquests. Many fans have subsequently reached out to Timberlake through social media, demanding an account of his behavior. Today, February 12h, Timberlake offered his response.
“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” he wrote. “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’s awareness of the entertainment industry’s double standards extends to the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show. The performance, sometimes referred to as “Nipplegate”, is infamous for a “wardrobe malfunction” when Timberlake removed part of Jackson’s bra, briefly exposing her nipple — though covered in a nipple shield — to the largest television audience of the year. Afterwards, Jackson was roundly criticized, and CBS exec Les Moonves reportedly made a concerted effort to blacklist her music and videos. Meanwhile, Timberlake’s next album FutureSex/LoveSounds became the best-selling album of his career. At the time, Timberlake told MTV, “I think that America’s harsher on women. And I think that America is, you know, unfairly harsh on ethnic people.”
But now, the pop star wishes he had gone much further. In his statement today, 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. 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.”
He added that, “The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success… 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 it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to benefit from others being pulled down ever again.”
Timberlake acknowledged that, “I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career.” He added, “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.” Check out the full statement below.
Last year, Spears endorsed the #FreeBritney movement, attempting to wrest financial control of her life away from her father Jamie Spears. Just yesterday, a judge overruled Jamie’s objections to a co-conservatorship.