The singer's past behavior has been the subject of commentary following the release of the New York Times/FX Framing Britney Spears documentary. It looks at the misogyny the "Toxic" songstress faced in the media in the aughts, including around her 2002 breakup from Timberlake. He addresses that — as well as the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show controversy involving Janet Jackson — in a statement posted to social media.
"I've seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond," Timberlake, 40, 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. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism."
The Palmer star continued, "I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually because I care 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 part of and grow from..."
Timberlake went on to write, "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."
He finished by writing, "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 part of a world that uplifts and supports."
It ended with, "I care deeply about the wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better."
Timberlake's wife, Jessica Biel, commented on his post: "I love you."
Related: The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears Trailer
In Framing Britney Spears, the documentary looks at how she was painted as a villain for breaking his heart after their high-profile split. It revisits Spears's 2003 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in which she had to address rumors she cheated on Timberlake, a narrative he painted with his “Cry Me a River” music video, which featured him getting revenge on a Spears-like character.
Sawyer said to 21-year-old Spears, “You broke his heart, you did something that caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?”
The doc also included a clip from Timberlake's post-breakup interview with a New York radio show in which he talked about having sex with Spears.
For years, it has also been questioned why Jackson took the hit for what was dubbed as "nipple-gate" in 2004, when surprise guest Timberlake pulled off part of her costume, exposing her bare breast during the Super Bowl halftime show. She faced major fallout at the time, but he didn't get the same treatment despite being the one who removed the costume. For instance, she was not allowed to the Grammys that year, where she was to present, but he was still permitted to attend. Jackson faced repercussions for years, including experiencing reduced sales, with then-CEO and chairman of CBS Les Moonves — who reportedly didn't like her apology statement — personally making things difficult for her.
Timberlake has also long been accused of culturally appropriating his music and looks from the Black community.
In 2019, Timberlake, who shares two children with Biel, issued a public apology to her after being photographed holding hands with his Palmer co-star Alisha Wainwright.
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