Justin Timberlake has an impeccable reputation as a Hollywood Renaissance man, but some of that fame and fortune came at ex Britney Spears' expense.
The press tour
The most common narrative about Spears and Timberlake's breakup in 2002 is that her alleged romp with choreographer Wade Robson caused the split. Us Weekly's report (along with many others) painted Timberlake as a heartbroken victim. Some outlets, including Rolling Stone, said the affair was exposed when Timberlake found a note from Robson in Spears' dressing room before a performance on Saturday Night Live.
Timberlake addressed the rumors in a plethora of interviews while simultaneously promoting his new solo project. Though sometimes he acted like he didn't want to answer questions about their relationship, he continued to do so again, and again, and again.
For her part, Spears did not diss Timberlake in interviews, instead focusing on her own heartbreak. After months of silence, she told The Sun (via the Daily Mail), "I'm still hurting but I am trying to see it as an experience. The worst thing is everyone wants to talk to me about it."
His 20/20 interview
In a 2002 interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20, Timberlake talked openly about his breakup with his childhood sweetheart. "I remember when we decided that we were going to go our separate ways we sat down and I said to her…'If there is ever a moment where you ever need me you can rest assured that I will be there because I love you, as a person, and I will always love you.' But I'd also said, 'Look, no matter what we say at this point people are going to speculate things'…And I promised to her that I wouldn't say specifically why we broke up."
That sounds like a wonderful plan, but when Walters asked Timberlake if Spears cheated, he wasn't cagey at all, telling her, "Honestly, I mean, you know, we're not perfect. I don't judge anybody. I think that it's just a situation of it's just young love. It's a very intense relationship, that's for sure." Okay, so that answer wasn't specific, but it certainly stoked the fires of speculation and kept everybody talking.
Timberlake also claimed all his lyrics on his post-breakup album, Justified, came from his own experience, yet said none of them were written for Spears, which is hard to believe.