What’s worse for Timberlake is that Spears’ claims suggest that he committed some of the biggest sins for a celebrity: Being a hypocrite and being inauthentic, a P.R. expert says
Maybe Britney Spears wasn’t looking to exact revenge on her long-ago ex-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, but claims in her upcoming memoir that he cheated on her while they were dating and urged her to have an abortion because he felt he was too young to become a father have potentially harmed his legacy.
“This is a body blow to Justin,” said Eric Schiffer, a Los Angeles-based public relations and reputation crisis expert, of Spears’ claims, which were revealed in news reports ahead of the release of her memoir, “The Woman in Me.”
“Brittney has the ability to sully his legacy,” Schiffer said. “I believe this undermines his ability to be at the pinnacle of his celebrity claim.” Nobody expected this information about the abortion. “The backlash against Justin has only just begun.”
When it came to the abortion, Timberlake hoped that his decision to terminate the pregnancy with Spears would remain “a secret forever,” according to Daily Mail sources.
Timberlake and Spears, both former “Mickey Mouse Club” members, dated from 1999 to 2002, when they were in their late teens and early twenties. Spears, 41, is detailing the conflicts that ended their relationship in her book, which will be released on Oct. 24. According to Schiffer, the pop singer’s version of events could be damaging to Timberlake, 42, because it contradicts the “victim” narrative he tried to spin following their breakup.
While promoting his debut solo album, “Justified,” Timberlake laughed along in a radio interview as he confirmed that Spears wasn’t the virgin she claimed to be and admitted they had sex, according to The Mirror.”Oh man… okay I did it!” he exclaimed during the interview, while also crudely admitting to other sex acts with her. Fans interpreted his hit single “Cry Me a River” as being about their break-up and how Spears allegedly broke Timberlake’s heart by cheating. Timberlake burst out laughing when Barbara Walters asked if Spears had “kept her promise to wait until marriage” in a 2006 interview.
Spears’ revelations paint Timberlake as a cheater as well as an extremely bad boyfriend who refused to accept responsibility for his role in her pregnancy.
According to TMZ, the “Baby One More Time” singer claimed in her memoir that Timberlake cheated on her with “another celebrity” during their relationship. Spears refuses to name the woman because she “doesn’t want to embarrass her.”
According to People, Spears’ memoir will also reveal that she became pregnant by Timberlake and would have been happy to keep the baby because she “loved Justin so much” and expected them to have a family together one day. But Timberlake, then 19, refused to be a father, so Spears had an abortion, which she described as “one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.”
Both of these allegations are damaging to Timberlake, according to Schiffer, because Timberlake has been accused of inappropriate behavior with other women while he was dating Jessica Biel and after they married in 2012. Timberlake has attempted to portray himself in recent years as a devoted husband and father, as well as an advocate for women’s rights and progressive causes. He has twice backed up Biel’s public support for abortion rights.
Worse, Spears’ claims may imply that Timberlake committed two of the most serious sins for a celebrity, according to Schiffer: hypocrisy and inauthenticity. The cheating and abortion allegations support the view that Timberlake purposefully and unfairly “slut-shamed” Spears in the early 2000s to gain favorable publicity, while failing to come clean about his own actions.
“The (claims) show him being a shamelessly hypocritical prima donna, if they are true,” Schiffer went on to say. “When you’re seeing a celebrity being hypocritical, it raises questions about authenticity and creates a cognizant dissonance in the minds of fans … that severs the emotional connection.”
However, Timberlake’s pro-choice stance means that he is not hypocritical on the issue, as some male public figures have demonstrated.
According to Schiffer, Timberlake will need to issue a statement, though it may be best for him to wait until the book is published so that he and his public relations team can get a complete picture of what Spears has to say about him.
Timberlake has previously apologized for his post-breakup treatment of Spears and expressed support for her during her conservatorship battle. After the documentary “Framing Britney Spears” was released in 2021, the singer drew the ire of Spears’ fans. The documentary looked into the media’s obsession with and exploitation of Spears as she rose to international stardom as a teenager. According to the film, Timberlake used Spears’ misfortunes to propel himself to pop music stardom.
In response to the backlash over “Framing Britney Spears,” Timberlake issued a public apology. He wrote on Instagram that he had seen all of the “messages, tags, comments, and concerns” from fans who were horrified by his actions, not only towards Spears but also towards Janet Jackson over her infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, which led to her exclusion from the music industry.
Timberlake expressed regret for his “missteps” in contributing to “a system that condones misogyny and racism.”
“Regardless of our past, good and bad, and no matter how long ago it was: What’s happening to her is just not right,” Timberlake wrote while Spears was fighting the conservatorship that allowed her father and others to be in charge of her affairs, including her medical care. No woman should ever be denied the right to make decisions about her own body.”