In a Notes-app screenshot posted to Instagram on Friday, Trolls star Justin Timberlake finally apologized for his treatment of Britney Spears and Janet Jackson over a decade ago.
“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns, and I want to respond,” Timberlake began. “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 went on: “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 a New York Times documentary about Britney Spears, which prompted a widespread reexamination of how the pop star was treated by the press and those closest to her — including Timberlake, whom Spears dated from 1999 to 2002. After their split, Timberlake publicly belittled Spears, bragging in interviews that they had slept together, even though Spears had said at the time that she was waiting until marriage to have sex, and then insinuating in the music video for his single “Cry Me a River” that she had cheated on him.
Soon after, in 2004, Timberlake went on to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show with Janet Jackson. During their performance, Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson’s dress, revealing her breast. The wardrobe malfunction sparked a massive backlash against Jackson. She was banned from attending the Grammys that year (Timberlake was not), and according to a 2018 HuffPost report, CBS’s Les Moonves was so enraged by the accident that he became set on ruining her career, ordering Viacom properties VH1, MTV, and all Viacom-owned radio stations to stop playing her songs and music videos. Timberlake emerged unscathed, his career continued to skyrocket, and at no point did he speak out in Jackson’s defense.
“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 part of and grow from,” Timberlake wrote in his apology.
Sure, whatever, man. It’s good that Timberlake is apologizing, but given that his apology comes nearly two decades after the facts, that he chose to lump his offenses against two different women together in one statement, and that he issued this apology only after enormous public scrutiny, it feels pretty underwhelming.