Justin Timberlake responded to the wave of backlash against him sparked by the Framing Britney Spears documentary in a statement on Instagram. In the statement, he apologizes for his past actions and inactions which directly and indirectly helped turn public sentiment against both Britney Spears and Janet Jackson, two women the entertainment industry demeaned and discarded after incidents involving Timberlake.
Timberlake also acknowledged his privilege in benefitting from “a system that condones misogyny and racism.” He specifically names Spears and Jackson as the two people he wants to apologize to and explains that he felt “compelled to respond, in part, because everyone involved deserves better.” He says that he no longer wants to unfairly benefit from his privilege in the “flawed” entertainment business and states “I want to take accountability for my own missteps in all of this.”
Timberlake became the focus of an intense wave of social media backlash after the documentary premiered on Hulu, as parts of the documentary focus on his contribution to Spears’ eventual downfall in the 2000s. Specifically, his song “Cry Me A River” is cited as a turning point for entertainment media’s perception of Spears, as the song contributed to the idea that she caused their breakup, leading to pestering questions and negative public sentiment against her.
Due to the increased attention on Timberlake, fans also began to recall his inaction during the media firestorm that followed his and Janet Jackson’s 2003 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, in which their planned choreography led to the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” that exposed Jackson’s nipple before the show’s producers could cut the lights.
The resulting anger against Jackson is widely believed to be a major contributing factor in her career downturn over the next decade, and Justin’s silence has been increasingly called a huge factor by fans as well. The growing sentiment is that he could have helped shield Janet instead of distancing himself from the incident to preserve his career, a fact he touched on but never directly apologized for when he returned to the Super Bowl in 2018.
Check out Justin’s response to the #FreeBritney backlash below.
This story is being updated.