“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 of turn, or did not speak up for what was right,” Timberlake began in an Instagram post published on Friday. “I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”
During Framing Britney Spears, an installment of the New York Times Presents docuseries, Timberlake is mentioned as one of the many people who contributed to a negative media portrayal of Spears. The two performers worked together on The Mickey Mouse Club as teens, collaborated often during Spears’ pop career and Timberlake’s time in NSYNC, and famously dated for a time.
As noted in the doc, Timberlake implied that Spears cheated on him via his “Cry Me a River” music video (which shows a Spears lookalike from behind) and, among other conversations about Spears, he bragged about sleeping with the singer during a radio interview. Following the couple’s high-profile breakup, Diane Sawyer appeared to side with Timberlake during a 2003 interview with Spears, asking her what she did to Timberlake “that caused him so much pain, so much suffering.”
“Everyone involved deserves better… this is a larger conversation that I wholeheartedly want to be part of and grow from,” Timberlake continued. “The industry is flawed… 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.”
Timberlake also extended his apology to Janet Jackson, with whom he performed at the Super Bowl 38 halftime show in 2004. After the wardrobe malfunction that led to Jackson’s breast being briefly exposed, Timberlake received criticism when his career didn’t appear to suffer from the scandal, whereas Jackson had performance invitations and other opportunities rescinded following the incident.
“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 said. “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 wellbeing of the people I love and have loved. I can do better and I will do better.”