On Sunday, approximately 3-year-old film footage of the now-20-year-old singer telling a racist joke surfaced. In the offensive clip, Bieber – who was then 17 – repeatedly uses a derogatory slur.
During the video, which was filmed for his 2011 documentary Never Say Never, he asks, "Why are black people afraid of chainsaws?" He continues with the punchline: "Run n––, n––, n––, n––, n––."
Hours after the footage went public, Bieber released a statement attempting to explain his actions – and apologizing for them.
The statement said, "As a kid, I didn't understand the power of certain words and how they can hurt. I thought it was okay to repeat hurtful words and jokes, but didn't realize at the time that it wasn't funny and that in fact my actions were continuing the ignorance.
"Thanks to friends and family I learned from my mistakes and grew up and apologized for those wrongs. Now that these mistakes from the past have become public I need to apologize again to all those I have offended. I'm very sorry. I take my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously and I apologize for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable mistake."
Bieber, who has had his fair share of public controversies, insisted that his actions would not be repeated.
"I was a kid then and I am a man now who knows my responsibility to the world and to not make that mistake again. Ignorance has no place in our society and I hope the sharing of my faults can prevent others from making the same mistake in the future. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say but telling the truth is always what's right.
"Five years ago I made a reckless and immature mistake and I'm grateful to those close to me who helped me learn those lessons as a young man. Once again … I'm sorry."