It’s never too late to apologize — even if you’re Timbaland.
The Grammy-winning producer told Britney Spears that he was sorry for suggesting that her ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake should have put “a muzzle” on her for speaking out about their relationship in her new memoir, “The Woman in Me.” The comment, which Timbaland made in October at a live event, had drawn backlash from fans who called the remarks misogynistic.
“I’m sorry to all the Britney fans, even to her,” Timbaland said on a TikTok live on Tuesday evening. “I’m sorry, ’cause ‘muzzle’ was — no, you have a voice, you speak what you want to speak. Who am I to tell you what not to speak? And I was wrong for saying that.”
He added that he knows “about respecting woman” and said he is a father but admitted, “I have my own mental health issues. … I got my own triggers.” He later said that the comment was meant to be a joke but acknowledged, “I could look outside myself and say that wasn’t a joke, that wasn’t a nice thing to say.”
Also in the TikTok, Timbaland said he disagreed with Spears’ decision to “spread” her issues “out to the world” but pointed out, “That might be her freedom of speech, her way to heal,” and called her “the queen.”
“Some of Britney’s fans are my fans,” he said, implying that he didn’t want to lose their support.
During a panel discussion on Oct. 29 with fellow producer 9th Wonder at the Kennedy Center in D.C., Timbaland (real name Timothy Mosley) had been talking about the significance of Timberlake in his career. The producer and Timberlake frequently collaborated in the 2000s, producing hits such as “SexyBack” and “Cry Me a River.”
When an audience member asked Timbaland what he thought about “Cry Me a River” receiving renewed attention due to its mention in Spears’ memoir, he said, “Man, she going crazy, right?
“I wanted to call JT, ‘Man, you gotta put a muzzle on that girl,’” he continued. The audience and 9th Wonder erupted into laughter.
“But you know what? We live in an age of social media and everybody wanna go viral,” Timbaland added. “I get it, because that’s the way you make money. Go viral.”
“Timbaland saying that Justin Timberlake should have put a ‘muzzle’ on Britney is actually INSANE considering Britney has been treated like a caged animal for the past 13 years,” the KingSpears fan account wrote in a tweet.
“Imagine in 2023 saying a woman should have a muzzle put on her for speaking her truth, ESPECIALLY after 13 years of abuse & silence,” another X user posted. “Timbaland is such a misogynistic piece of s—. I’m so grossed out right now.”
Spears and Timberlake started dating in 1999 when she was 17 and he was 18. Spears was blamed for the end of their romance in 2002.
Then Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” suggested that it was Spears who cheated on him and broke his heart. He would go on to give other interviews in which he continued to blame Spears.
In “The Woman in Me,” Spears admitted that she did cheat on Timberlake once, making out with choreographer Wade Robson. But it was Timberlake who cheated on her repeatedly, mostly while he was on the road, then . went on to break up with her via text message, she wrote. The two had been living together.
Even before the release of the memoir, Timberlake apologized for his behavior.
Spears also revealed that she became pregnant while dating the NSYNC frontman, and that he insisted she undergo an abortion because he was not ready to be a father. She called the day of her abortion “one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life,” and said she wouldn’t have done it if she was making the decision without Timberlake.
“[A]s much as Justin hurt me, there was a huge foundation of love, and when he left me I was devastated,” Spears wrote. “When I say devastated, I mean I could barely speak for months. Whenever anyone asked me about him, all I could do was cry. I don’t know if I was clinically in shock, but it felt that way.”
Times staff writer Carlos De Loera contributed to this report.