Britney Spears' abortion, cheating claims could damage Justin Timberlake's legacy


By AGENCY

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake arrive at the 28th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles on Jan 8, 2001. Photo: AP

Maybe Britney Spears wasn’t looking to exact revenge on her long-ago ex-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, but she has potentially caused serious damage to his legacy with claims in her upcoming memoir that he cheated on her while they were dating and urged her to get an abortion because he felt he was too young to become a father.

“This is a body blow to Justin,” said Los Angeles-based public relations and reputation crisis expert Eric Schiffer about Spears’ claims, which have been revealed in news reports ahead of publication of her memoir, The Woman in Me.

“Britney has the power to damage his legacy,” Schiffer said. “I think this hurts his ability to be at the top of his celebrity claim. No one expected this detail about the abortion. The backlash with Justin has only just started.”

When it comes to the abortion, Timberlake hoped that his decision with Spears to terminate the pregnancy would remain “a secret forever,” insiders told the Daily Mail.

Timberlake and Spears, fellow Mickey Mouse Club alums, dated from 1999 to 2002 when they were in their late teens and early 20s.

More than 20 years later, Spears, 41, is detailing the conflicts that ended their relationship in her book.

The pop singer’s version of events could be damaging to Timberlake, 42, because it challenges the “victim” narrative he tried to spin right after their break-up, Schiffer said.

While Timberlake was promoting his debut 2002 solo album, Justified, the NSYNC singer laughed along in a radio interview as he confirmed that Spears wasn’t the virgin she claimed to be and admitted they had sex, The Mirror reported.

“Oh man... okay I did it!” he shouted in the interview, as he also crudely admitted to engaging in other sex acts with her.

Fans also took his hit single Cry Me A River to be about their break-up and about how Spears supposedly broke Timberlake’s heart by cheating.

In a 2006 interview with Barbara Walters, Timberlake burst out laughing when she asked if Spears had “kept her promise to wait until marriage”.

Spears’ revelations portray Timberlake as the cheater, as well as an extremely bad boyfriend who couldn’t take responsibility for his role in her becoming pregnant.

The Baby One More Time singer said in her memoir that Timberlake cheated on her with “another celebrity” during their relationship, TMZ reported. Spears won’t reveal the woman’s name because she “doesn’t want to embarrass her.”

As reported by People, Spears’ memoir also will say she became pregnant by Timberlake and would have been happy to keep the baby because she “loved Justin so much” and expected they would one day have a family together.

But Timberlake, then 19, said he wasn’t ready for fatherhood, so Spears got an abortion, which she said was “one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.”

Spears and Timberlake, who met during their time on 'The Mickey Mouse Club', dated from 1999 to 2002. Photo: TNSSpears and Timberlake, who met during their time on 'The Mickey Mouse Club', dated from 1999 to 2002. Photo: TNS

Both these claims are harmful to Timberlake, according to Schiffer, given that Timberlake also has dealt with multiple allegations over the years that he behaved inappropriately with other women while he and Jessica Biel were together and after they married in 2012.

In more recent years, Timberlake has tried to portray himself as a devoted husband and father, as well as an advocate for women’s rights and progressive causes. He has twice affirmed Biel’s public statements in favor of abortion rights.

What’s worse for Timberlake is that Spears’ claims could suggest that he committed what Schiffer described as some of the biggest sins for a celebrity: Being a hypocrite and being inauthentic.

The cheating and abortion allegations bolster the view that Timberlake purposefully and unfairly “slut-shamed” Spears to gain favorability publicity in the early 2000s, while he failed to come clean about his own actions.

“The (claims) show him being a shamelessly hypocritical prima donna, if they are true,” Schiffer said. “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.”

But, Schiffer said, Timberlake’s pro-choice view mean that he wasn’t hypocritical on that issue, as some male public figures have shown themselves to be.

Schiffer said Timberlake can’t expect Spears’ claims to soon be forgotten, even as sources close to him told Entertainment Tonight that he is “trying trying not to concern himself with Britney’s memoir.”

Timberlake and Biel, the source said, “just want everyone to grow and evolve instead of continuing to bring up the past.” Schiffer also said Timberlake can only go so far in blaming his actions in the early 2000s on immaturity.

Schiffer said that Timberlake will need to release a statement, though it might be best for him to wait until the book is published so that and his PR team can get a full picture of what Spears has to say about him.

Timberlake has apologized in the past for his post-breakup treatment of Spears, and he voiced support for her during her conservatorship battle.

The singer drew the ire of Spears’ fans after the documentary Framing Britney Spears was released in 2021.

The documentary investigated the media’s obsession and exploitation of Spears as she became an international superstar as a teenager. The film argued that Timberlake used Spears’ misfortunes to catapult himself to pop music fame.

In response to the criticism arising from Framing Britney Spears, Timberlake issued a public apology.

He wrote on Instagram that he had seen all the “messages, tags, comments and concerns” from fans who were horrified by his actions, not just towards Spears but to Janet Jackson over her infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, which led to her being ostracized by the music industry.

Timberlake said he regretted how his “missteps” contributed to “a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

While Spears was fighting in court against the conservatorship that allowed her father and others to be in charge of her affairs, including her medical care, Timberlake wrote: “Regardless of our past, good and bad, and no matter how long ago it was: What’s happening to her is just not right.

“No woman should ever be restricted from making decisions about her own body.” – The Mercury News/Tribune News Service

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