Justin Timberlake sent out a lengthy message on his Instagram page addressing criticisms directed his way related to his actions toward both Janet Jackson and Britney Spears.
Fans of both legendary musicians have long harbored deep resentment toward the 40-year-old for things he said and did to them throughout his career, as well as his ability to largely avoid the media criticism that both women spent years dealing with.
“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,” he wrote on Friday.
“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. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism,” he added.
Timberlake participated in the infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime show with Jackson, where he pulled off a part of her leather costume that revealed one of her breasts to the more than 140 million people watching.
Both Jackson and Timberlake said it was a mistake and that he accidentally removed both the leather part and the bra that was supposed to be under it. But his career was largely unaffected by the incident yet Jackson was blackballed in the music industry.
In 2018, HuffPost reported that the powerful, now-disgraced, head of CBS, Les Moonves, was “obsessed” with ruining Jackson’s career after the incident.
Moonves banned both from the Grammys that year but allowed Timberlake to perform after he apologized. Moonves subsequently banned VH1 and MTV, both owned by CBS, from playing any of Jackson’s music or videos and forced all radio stations owned by Viacom to stop playing her music, according to Rolling Stone.
The decisions tanked Jackson’s album causing many of her fans to lash out at the music industry, which allowed Timberlake to effectively move on despite his equal participation in the Super Bowl controversy.
Timberlake initially joked about the controversy before releasing more serious apologies. But he still managed to largely escape blame.
Executives who spoke to HuffPost in 2018 said Moonves was also instrumental in how news outlets covered the controversy, shaping public perception of Jackson from then on.
Timberlake himself admitted that Jackson got an unfair amount of blame for the incident in an interview with MTV in 2007.
“In my honest opinion now… I could’ve handled it better. I probably got 10 percent of the blame, and that says something about society. I think that America’s harsher on women … And I think that America is, you know, unfairly harsh on ethnic people,” Timberlake said.
He later apologized again in 2009 to Entertainment Weekly
“I wish I had supported Janet more. I am not sorry I apologized, but I wish I had been there more for Janet,” he said.