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Justin Timberlake posts apology to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson

Justin Timberlake apologized to ex-girlfriend Britney Spears on Instagram on Friday, 19 years after publicly blaming her for their break up and using his ‘heartbreak’ to promote his music. 

He also apologized to Janet Jackson for tearing off her costume at the 2004 Super Bowl to expose her breast, in what they said was an accident at the time but for which she was crucified.  

In the long Instagram post, Timberlake said: ‘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’s apology comes after he was tagged in social media posts about Spears and the campaign to release her from a conservatorship held by her father. 

It has been highlighted recently in a documentary, Framing Britney Spears, which lays bare how Spears has, according to her fans, been exploited by the men in her life. 

Fans say that Timberlake is one of them.  He and Spears dated from 1999 until 2002 after meeting at The Mickey Mouse Club and were an iconic star duo. They split abruptly and rumors soon emerged that she’d cheated on him.  

His career soared. Albums and songs were promoted under the narrative that Spears broke his heart. In the music video for his 2002 hit Cry Me A River, he even used a Britney lookalike. Britney was vilified for their break-up. 

It’s unclear if Timberlake has been in touch with the women to apologize privately. 

Neither of them has yet responded publicly to his apology. 

Timberlake and Spears dated from 1998 until 2002 and were an iconic star duo. After their break-up, she suffered mental health episodes and had control of her life taken by her father

Timberlake and Spears dated from 1998 until 2002 and were an iconic star duo. After their break-up, she suffered mental health episodes and had control of her life taken by her father

Justin Timberlake posted this statement on Instagram on Friday to apologize for his past treatment of women

Justin Timberlake posted this statement on Instagram on Friday to apologize for his past treatment of women

Justin Timberlake posted this statement on Instagram on Friday to apologize for his past treatment of women

In a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, Sawyer asked her: ‘He’s gone on television and pretty much said you broke his heart,you did something that caused him so much pain. What did you do?’ 

Britney, then 21, replied: ‘We’re both really young. It was kind of waiting to happen. I will always love him.

‘Everyone has a side of their story and to make them feel a certain way, make them feel, you know… I’m not saying he’s wrong and I’m not saying he’s right either.’  

Timberlake didn’t shy away from speaking about their interview. In one example, he was asked: ‘I have to ask, did you f**k Britney Spears?’

He laughed, sighed, then said: ‘Oh man, OK I did it’. 

In an interview with The Telegraph in 2002, he also said: ‘The break-up was absolutely heartbreaking for me.  

‘I can’t just have meaningless relationships with women. I have to find Miss Right in order to have a relationship. There’s got to be that big moment when she comes along.’ 

Cry Me A River was considered his song about their break-up. 

The lyrics include: ‘You don’t have to say, what you did. I already know, I found out from him.

‘Now there’s just no chance with you and me. There’ll never be Don’t it make you sad about it?

‘You told me you love me. Why did you leave me all alone. Now you tell me you need me….

‘Now it’s your turn, to cry.’ 

Britney’s Everytime was considered hers. 

In that song, she said: ‘Every time I try to fly I fall without my wings…my weakness caused you pain and this song’s my sorry.’ 

In his post on Friday, Timberlake said he’d seen the ‘tags’ and mentions about the Framing Britney Spears documentary and his alleged complicity in her downfall. 

‘I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments and concerns and I want to respond. I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out o f turn or did not speak up for what was right. 

Spears and Timberlake were a golden couple when they started dating. She was already exorbitantly famous. He was too because of NSYNC but he launched his solo career after their split

Spears and Timberlake were a golden couple when they started dating. She was already exorbitantly famous. He was too because of NSYNC but he launched his solo career after their split

Spears and Timberlake were a golden couple when they started dating. She was already exorbitantly famous. He was too because of NSYNC but he launched his solo career after their split 

In his music video for Cry Me  A River, Timberlake used a Britney Spears lookalike (above). The narrative surrounding the break up and the subsequent album was that Spears cheated on Timberlake and left him heartbroken

Timberlake, kissing a brunette actress, in the video for Cry Me A River

Timberlake, kissing a brunette actress, in the video for Cry Me A River

Timberlake, kissing a brunette actress, in the video for Cry Me A River 

In an interview in 2002, Britney was asked by Diane Sawyer. 'He's gone on television and pretty much said you broke his heart, you did something that caused him so much pain. What did you do?'  She broke down in the interview after saying she was 'hurt'

In an interview in 2002, Britney was asked by Diane Sawyer. 'He's gone on television and pretty much said you broke his heart, you did something that caused him so much pain. What did you do?'  She broke down in the interview after saying she was 'hurt'

In an interview in 2002, Britney was asked by Diane Sawyer. ‘He’s gone on television and pretty much said you broke his heart, you did something that caused him so much pain. What did you do?’  She broke down in the interview after saying she was ‘hurt’ 

In 2004, Timberlake, then 23, performed with Janet Jackson, then 38, at the Super Bowl. At the end of the performance, he tore off her costume to expose her breast. The moment afterwards is shown

In 2004, Timberlake, then 23, performed with Janet Jackson, then 38, at the Super Bowl. At the end of the performance, he tore off her costume to expose her breast. The moment afterwards is shown

In 2004, Timberlake, then 23, performed with Janet Jackson, then 38, at the Super Bowl. At the end of the performance, he tore off her costume to expose her breast. The moment afterwards is shown

‘I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited a system that condones misogyny and racism,’ he said. 

He went on: ‘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 a part of and grow from… 

‘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.

‘I have not been perfect in navigating all of this throughout my career.

Britney is shown in a recent social media post (left) Fans are concerned for her wellbeing and want her to be released from the control of her father, Jamie (right) who can still legally make decisions on her behalf

Britney is shown in a recent social media post (left) Fans are concerned for her wellbeing and want her to be released from the control of her father, Jamie (right) who can still legally make decisions on her behalf

Britney's father Jamie

Britney's father Jamie

Britney is shown in a recent social media post (left) Fans are concerned for her wellbeing and want her to be released from the control of her father, Jamie (right) who can still legally make decisions on her behalf

Fans are concerned for her wellbeing and want her to be released from the control of her father, Jamie, who can still legally make decisions on her behalf

Fans are concerned for her wellbeing and want her to be released from the control of her father, Jamie, who can still legally make decisions on her behalf

Fans are concerned for her wellbeing and want her to be released from the control of her father, Jamie, who can still legally make decisions on her behalf

‘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.

‘I care deeply about the well-being of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.’ 

Timberlake, in his Instagram post, also apologized to Janet Jackson. In 2004, Timberlake, then 23, performed with Janet Jackson, then 38, at the Super Bowl. 

At the end of the performance, he tore off her costume to expose her breast. 

She was wearing a nipple cover but looked visibly shocked by what he’d done and the audience was irate. 

In a statement afterwards, MTV and Viacom said it was not part of the planned show. 

Timberlake and Jackson called it a ‘wardrobe malfunction’.  

Jackson’s career suffered afterwards and she was blacklisted by Viacom. She was banned from going to the Grammy’s too. 

Timberlake’s soared and he was even invited back to perform again in 2018.  

Timberlake with his wife Jessica Biel. He said in his post that he no longer wanted to 'benefit from others being pulled down'. After his post, she commented: 'Love you'

Timberlake with his wife Jessica Biel. He said in his post that he no longer wanted to 'benefit from others being pulled down'. After his post, she commented: 'Love you'

Timberlake with his wife Jessica Biel. He said in his post that he no longer wanted to ‘benefit from others being pulled down’. After his post, she commented: ‘Love you’ 


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Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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