'Hard to love' Justin Timberlake talks DWI arrest at Chicago show: 'It's been a tough week'

Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Justin Timberlake knows he's "hard to love" sometimes but thanked his fans in the Windy City on Friday for doing so anyway, addressing his recent arrest in the Hamptons and subsequent charge of driving while intoxicated in public for the first time.

Apparently, his Tuesday arrest in New York did not "ruin" his world tour after all.

The Grammy and Emmy Award winner, 43, delivered a short but emotional speech Friday night at the United Center in Chicago, the latest stop on his Forget Tomorrow World Tour, as seen in concert footage posted on social media. As the boisterous crowd cheered him on, the former NSYNC frontman seemingly humbled himself in front of the sold-out arena.

"We've been together through ups and downs and lefts and rights. And, uh, it's been a tough week. But you're here and I'm here. Nothing can change this moment right now," the singer said while holding an acoustic guitar and bowing to his adoring fans. "I know sometimes I'm hard to love, but you keep on loving me and I love you right back. Thank you so much."

"Now if you'll oblige me, I'd like to have a little sing-along with you guys," he added, before launching into the show.

The "Can't Stop the Feeling" singer was arrested on Long Island after Sag Harbor police saw his gray 2025 BMW UT run a stop sign and struggle to stay in its lane. Police who pulled him over just after 12:30 a.m. alleged the singer's eyes "were bloodshot and glassy" and "a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage was emanating from his breath."

"[H]e was unable to divide attention, he had slowed speech, he was unsteady afoot and he performed poorly on all standardized field sobriety tests," according to court papers obtained by The Times. The "Rock Your Body" singer was booked and held overnight in jail, where his mug shot was taken. He was arraigned hours later in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court, on the eastern end of Long Island, the Suffolk County district attorney's office confirmed to The Times. He pleaded not guilty, the New York Times reported.

Timberlake's spokespeople and his attorney did not immediately respond to the Los Angeles Times' requests for comment.

In surveillance footage obtained by CNN, a car that matched the police description of Timberlake's vehicle could be seen running the stop sign near where Timberlake was arrested, but it did not appear to be swerving in the clip.

"The Social Network" and "Trolls" actor had been having dinner and drinks with friends at the American Hotel and was pulled over about a mile away, where he told police officers that he had had only one martini before following his friends home. He refused to take a breath test three times and "performed poorly" on field sobriety tests, police said.

Page Six, citing anonymous sources, reported that the police officer who arrested the singer "was so young that he didn't even know" who the 10-time Grammy winner was. Another source told the outlet that when he was pulled over, "Justin said under his breath, 'This is going to ruin the tour.' The cop replied, 'What tour?' Justin said, 'The world tour.'" The remark went viral Tuesday and, along with Timberlake's mugshot, instantly became a meme.

At the police station, where he spent the night, he handed over his wedding ring, phone, baseball cap, watch and wallet, along with a vape pen and green and blue papers, the kind used for rolling marijuana, according to the New York Times.

"He was freaking out and stayed up all night when he was in custody," a source told People on Friday. "He's insisting he only had one drink and it wasn't some wild night out."

Timberlake was charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated because he refused to take a breath test when he was pulled over, Timberlake's attorney Eddie Burke Jr. told Us Weekly. The singer was also given two citations, one for running a stop sign and the other for not traveling in the correct traffic lane, Burke said.

He was released on his own recognizance; no bail was set. His next court date will be July 26 — the same day he is scheduled to be in Kraków, Poland, on his Forget Tomorrow Tour. Timberlake's arrest took place during a brief break on the tour, which runs through December.


He has kept a low profile since the incident. His attorney on Wednesday told TMZ that he and the singer look forward "to vigorously defending Mr. Timberlake against these allegations. He will have a lot to say at the appropriate time." The outlet also reported that the musician, who does not have a previous arrest record, does not plan to check into a rehab facility — a proactive move often used by celebrities to look good in front of a judge and strike a better plea deal in alcohol- or drug-related legal incidents.

The remarks he delivered Friday in Chicago marked the first time Timberlake publicly acknowledged the arrest since it happened.

After releasing his sixth studio album, "Everything I Thought It Was," in March, the hitmaker set off on his Forget Tomorrow World Tour in April. The tour is scheduled to continue in Chicago on Saturday before he plays Madison Square Garden in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The musician landed in hot water last year amid revelations in "The Woman in Me," his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears' bombshell memoir, that she had an abortion at Timberlake's behest while they were dating around the turn of the century. Timberlake's connection to Spears was also scrutinized in 2021 when a series of documentaries about her protracted conservatorship revisited the media's treatment of the embattled pop princess, which included accepting his spin on their breakup.

Timberlake — now a father of two boys with actor Jessica Biel — took a lot of heat during that time, prompting a public apology to Spears and to his 2004 Super Bowl co-headliner Janet Jackson that acknowledged he "fell short" and benefited from "a system that condones misogyny and racism."

In the wake of Timberlake's arrest, Spears' fans rallied to send her 2011 song "Criminal" — believed to be an allusion to her relationship with Timberlake — back up the charts. Her fans had some success with that endeavor back in January when they staged a digital music coup to dethrone Timberlake's new single "Selfish" by streaming her 13-year-old song with the same name.

The swaggering showman is allegedly having a harder time lately landing roles in Hollywood, Page Six reported, and is facing lackluster sales for his tour and latest album, which dropped off the Billboard 200 chart after four weeks.

"The album didn't do too well, and I don't see Justin getting big acting roles right now," a Hollywood insider told the outlet earlier this week.

"He's got a bit of an ego," another industry insider added. "His golden boy image is definitely depleted."

Meanwhile, the owner of the American Hotel told TMZ that Timberlake would be welcomed back anytime, because he was a model customer, "great guest and a nice guy."

Likewise, "CBS Mornings" host Gayle King defended the musician Wednesday on air, saying that Timberlake is "a really, really great guy" and adding that the incident was "clearly a mistake" and that she bets "nobody knows it more than he."

"He's not an irresponsible person, he's not reckless, he's not careless," King said. "Clearly this is not a good thing, he knows that."

Other celebrities have either come out against the singer or come to his defense. Comedian Ricky Gervais used the viral news story as a way to plug his own vodka brand on X. But singer Billy Joel, who was spotted at the American Hotel after Timberlake's arrest, told a New York news station, "Judge not lest ye be judged."

On TikTok, footage from Timberlake's May tour stop in Las Vegas began making the rounds, with users commenting on the crooner's reddish eyes while performing in the clip and speculating about whether that was a precursor to his Sag Harbor arrest.

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