Timbaland says Justin Timberlake should have put a 'muzzle' on 'crazy' Britney Spears

Timbaland poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. Timbaland, the hit-making producer for elite acts like Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, is creating a new venture called Beatclub, a digital platform for music makers to connect with musicians, producers, songwriters, music publishers and record labels. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Timbaland said Justin Timberlake should have put a "muzzle" on Britney Spears to stop her from speaking out in memoir. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

If there was ever any doubt where mega-producer Timbaland stands regarding the ongoing public beef between Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, let it be clear: He sides with Timberlake.

In a snippet from an Oct. 29 conversation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Timbaland was asked during an audience Q&A how he felt about Timberlake's single "Cry Me a River" — supposedly inspired by the singer's relationship with Spears — being in the spotlight again due to the popularity of the "Oops!... I Did It Again" singer's memoir.

"Man, she's going crazy, right?" the Grammy-winning producer responded, while the audience broke out in laughter. "I wanted to call and say, 'JT, man, you gotta put a muzzle on that girl.'"

Timbaland added that he understood Spears' impetus to include details about her romance with Timberlake, attributing it to the everlasting desire for internet virality.

Read more: Britney Spears' 'The Woman in Me': 8 takeaways from a book full of fury

"We live in an age of social media and viral, everybody wanna go viral," he said. "I get it ’cause that's the way you make money, go viral — I gotta do something that gets people's attention."

Though the live audience laughed heartily, the reaction on social media and elsewhere to Timbaland's comments was not great.

"Wow this is disgusting.. does he even realize what that poor girl has been through?" one commenter said on YouTube.

"Timbaland saying that Justin Timberlake should have put a 'muzzle' on Britney is actually INSANE considering Britney has been treated like a caged animal for the past 13 years," a user posted on X, formerly Twitter.

"Imagine in 2023 saying a woman should have a muzzle put on her for speaking her truth, ESPECIALLY after 13 years of abuse & silence," another X user posted. "Timbaland is such a misogynistic piece of s—. I’m so grossed out right now."

Read more: In her memoir, Britney Spears reveals she had an abortion while with Justin Timberlake

Spears and Timberlake started dating in 1999 when she was 17 and he was 18, while both of them rose to the top of the pop music world. After breaking up in 2002, Spears was blamed for the end of their romance by powerful media figures, including veteran journalist Diane Sawyer, who confronted the pop star about Timberlake in a high-profile 2003 interview that brought the “Lucky” singer to tears.

In "The Woman in Me," Spears wrote that she became pregnant while dating the NSYNC frontman during their high-profile, turn-of-the-century romance, and that he insisted she undergo an abortion because he was not ready to be a father.

“[A]s much as Justin hurt me, there was a huge foundation of love, and when he left me I was devastated,” Spears wrote. “When I say devastated, I mean I could barely speak for months. Whenever anyone asked me about him, all I could do was cry. I don’t know if I was clinically in shock, but it felt that way.”

Timberlake was further scrutinized online after the release of Spears' memoir when a clip of actor Michelle Williams' audiobook narration of the "Rock Your Body" vocalist went viral.

Read more: Michelle Williams does a viral Justin Timberlake impression as she narrates Britney Spears’ memoir

In one scene, Spears wrote about the former boy-band member trying to impress singer Ginuwine in New York City, and Williams narrated what he said using Timberlake's alleged "blaccent." Social media called the snippet “the greatest clip of audio since Watergate.”

“His band *NSYNC was back then what people called ‘so pimp.’ They were white boys but they loved hip-hop. To me, that’s what separated them from the Backstreet Boys, who seemed very consciously to position themselves as a white group,” Spears wrote in her memoir. “*NSYNC hung out with Black artists. Sometimes I thought they tried too hard to fit in.

“One day J and I were in New York, going to parts of town I had never been to before. Walking our way was a guy with a huge, blinged-out medallion. He was flanked by two giant security guards. J got all excited and said so loud, ‘Oh yeah, fo’ shiz fo’ shiz, Ginuwine, what’s up homie?’ After Ginuwine walked away, [Spears’ longtime assistant] Felicia did an impression of J ... J wasn’t even embarrassed. He just took it and looked at her like, ‘OK, f— you Fe.’”

Times staff writers Nardine Saad, Emily St. Martin and Jonah Valdez contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.