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Timberlake backs out of Motown special

Singer blames a conflict with filming his first movie
/ Source: The Associated Press

Justin Timberlake has backed out of an agreement to co-host ABC's "Motown 45" special because of a conflict with filming his first movie, Timberlake's spokesman said Tuesday.

The April 4 taping of the special in Los Angeles conflicts with the start date for "Edison," spokesman Ken Sunshine said. Timberlake has a substantial role in the drama opposite Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey, playing a young journalist who discovers an elite team of corrupt police.

"He'll be in the middle of filming when the event is scheduled to be taped, and that's the reason he can't do it, and that's the only reason he can't do it," Sunshine said.

The recent Grammy winner had been tapped earlier this year to co-host the anniversary celebration of the legendary soul music label along with Lionel Richie.

Timberlake was engulfed in controversy for much of February after he ripped off part of Janet Jackson's costume during the Super Bowl halftime show, revealing her breast. The choreographed stunt, which both said was not meant to include nudity, sparked a national outcry and an FCC investigation. CBS, which aired the Super Bowl, only allowed Timberlake to participate in its Grammy broadcast after he agreed to apologize on the air.

Last week, the Los Angeles-based group Project Islamic Hope issued a press release saying that unnamed black leaders were "outraged" by the choice of Timberlake, who is white, to co-host the Motown special.

The leader of Project Islamic Hope, Najee Ali, was unavailable to comment Tuesday after being arrested and booked for investigation of felony hit-and-run driving that left a woman injured, according to Los Angeles police.

ABC spokeswoman Lauren Tobin said neither the Super Bowl flap or black protests played a role in Timberlake's departure from the special, and said ABC did not pressure producers to remove Timberlake.

"We were not going to dictate, 'Hey you've gotta get rid of him,'" Tobin told The Associated Press. "It just happened, unfortunately, that right around the time that we were made aware of Project Islamic Hope thing, Justin got information about when he needed to work."

Tobin said Timberlake may be replaced by one or two more co-hosts. The special does not have a scheduled air date, but is likely to be broadcast in May, she said.