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Justin Timberlake apologizes to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson: 'I failed'

The former 'N SYNC star has come under fire for past sexist behavior after a new Britney Spears documentary premiered.
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/ Source: TODAY

Justin Timberlake is apologizing to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson for past sexist and misogynist behavior that affected both female stars' careers.

The former 'N SYNC singer has come under fire after a new Britney Spears documentary, "Framing Britney Spears," premiered last week on Hulu and FX. The film, produced by the New York Times, examines how Timberlake, who dated Spears from 1999 from 2002, when both were teen stars, spoke negatively about the singer to the media after the couple's split.

It also rehashes the cultural reaction to Timberlake's 2002 hit "Cry Me A River," which implied Spears cheated on him, and questions why Timberlake never suffered the same career setbacks as Janet Jackson after the duo's famous "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl.

“Ive seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” Timberlake, 40, wrote in an emotional message he posted Friday on Instagram. “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."

“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 added.

The documentary includes audio of Timberlake during a media interview crudely admitting he and Spears slept together, despite Spears' public claims of being a virgin. It also shows footage of the video for "Cry Me A River," which featured a Britney Spears look-alike playing the part of the cheating girlfriend.

The documentary's focus is to question why Spears, 39, remains against her will under a conservatorship that her father, Jamie Spears, set up after she suffered a much-publicized mental breakdown in 2008.

The hard-hitting film more broadly examines how Britney Spears has been sexualized and judged by the media throughout her long career, which began more than 20 years ago.

The film sparked fresh debate about Timberlake's role in the backlash against both Spears and Jackson, who performed in the now-infamous Super Bowl halftime show with Timberlake. During the duo's performance, Timberlake, who had just launched his superstar solo career, botched a move with Jackson's costume, accidentally exposing her breast on live TV.

Though both stars apologized for the mishap, Jackson alone suffered a fallout. The legendary "Control" singer's music and videos were blacklisted by Clear Channel Communications, which owned Infinity Broadcasting and Viacom (MTV and CBS). As a consequence, Jackon's new album at the time, "Damita Jo," became her lowest-selling album since 1984.

Jackson was also not invited to the 2004 Grammys, while Timberlake was. Timberlake was also later invited to perform solo at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2018.

"The industry is flawed. It sets up white men, for success. It’s designed this way," Timberlake said in his apology on Friday. "As a man in privileged position, I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all it was while happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again."

Timberlake vowed to learn and "grow" from his past mistakes.

“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," he wrote.

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