Justin Timberlake dismissed chance to apologise to Janet Jackson five years ago, reporter says

Timberlake apologised to both Jackson and Britney Spears this month, but has been accused of only responding after a public outcry

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 19 February 2021 12:53
Janet Jackson performs at the Billboard Music Awards

A reporter has called out Justin Timberlake after the musician’s apology to Janet Jackson, by pointing to a moment five years ago where he was apparently less willing to make amends.

In an op-ed for The Daily Beast, journalist Ernest Owens says he sent a tweet to Timberlake in 2016 in which he accused him of appropriating Black music, and requested an apology for Jackson.

Timberlake has been under scrutiny for years for his vague platitudes in response to the controversy surrounding his 2004 Super Bowl halftime performance with Jackson.

During the show, Timberlake ripped a portion of Jackson’s costume and, for a fraction of a second, exposed her partially covered breast to millions of viewers.

Timberlake went on to enjoy a successful career, while Jackson was widely blamed for the incident and blacklisted from the music industry for years.

In an interview with MTV two years after the incident, Timberlake claimed the incident was “not that serious”, later acknowledging that he “probably got 10 per cent of the blame, and that says something about society”.

That same year, Jackson hinted she had been disappointed with Timberlake’s actions – or lack of – after the Super Bowl.

In 2016, Owens called out Timberlake for praising actor Jesse Williams’ BET awards speech, where he condemned police brutality and the entertainment industry’s “gentrification” of Black culture.

“So does this mean you're going to stop appropriating our music and culture? And apologise to Janet too,” Owens tweeted.

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In a since-deleted tweet, a screenshot of which features in Owens' article, Timberlake apparently replied: “Oh, you sweet soul. The more you realise that we are the same, the more we can have a conversation. Bye.”

Owens wrote that, at the time, coverage of the exchange painted him as being “too hard” on Timberlake.

“In pure Timberlake fashion, he immediately made himself out to be the victim,” he said.

Read more: Justin Timberlake apologises to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson

Read more: ‘People spent years taking photos of Britney Spears. Did they ever really look?’

Timberlake issued an apology to Jackson this month, following public outcry at his perceived poor treatment of Britney Spears, which was addressed in a recent documentary about the pop star.

“I've seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns, and I want to respond,” Timberlake said in a statement.

“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 for what was right.”

Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake

He continued: “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 apologise to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”

However, many were left dissatisfied with Timberlake’s apology, with one comment on his Instagram asking: “Where have you been for the last 17 years?”

“Britney and Janet had to wait nearly two decades for a half-assed, two-for-one apology,” Owens concluded.

“I'm still left wondering: if Britney's bombshell documentary was never released, would Janet have even been given an apology? Because five years ago, the answer was a resounding no.”

The full Daily Beast article is available here.

The Independent has contacted Timberlake’s representative for comment.