Justin Timberlake has apologized to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson.
The release of Framing Britney Spears ignited calls among fans this week for the former NSYNC-er to apologize for the role he played in sullying the Princess of Pop’s reputation in the wake of their break-up. Fans have also clamored for an apology to Jackson for years, given that he never stepped up to defend her after her wardrobe malfunction during their Super Bowl performance in 2004.
“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 in a statement posted to Instagram Friday. “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,” he continued, “because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”
As Framing Britney Spears shows, it was Timberlake who was able to seize the public narrative in the wake of his and Spears’ break-up in 2002. The documentary notes that he was portrayed as the pure-hearted popular boy in school who got his heart broken by Spears, whom the public basically treated as “the school slut.” Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” video—a revenge fantasy in which he breaks into the home of an ex styled to look just like Spears and makes out with another woman, leaving a tape playing on her television in his wake—did little to help matters.
Two years later, Timberlake performed with Jackson at the Super Bowl. After Timberlake exposed her breast to the public for half a second, Viacom blacklisted Jackson—barring her singles and videos from its subsidiary, MTV. (As it turns out, Les Moonves was apparently determined to ruin Jackson’s career in the wake of the incident.) The damage to Jackson’s career was catastrophic. Timberlake, meanwhile, emerged unscathed.
“The industry is flawed,” Timberlake wrote in his statement. “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 realize 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 know this apology is a first step and doesn’t absolve the past,” Timberlake concluded. “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. I care deeply about the wellbeing of people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.”