But Justin has now gone ahead and done just this in a statement to E! News.
"Facing my mistakes from years ago has been one of the hardest things I've ever dealt with," the artist says. "But I feel now that I need to take responsibility for those mistakes and not let them linger."
Acknowledging that he's a role model and that certain words definitely matter, Bieber added:
"I just hope that the next 14-year-old kid who doesn't understand the power of these words does not make the same mistakes I made years ago. At the end of the day I just need to step up and own what I did."
No one can defend the slur Bieber uttered in these instances, but most are praising the star for coming so clean so quickly in reference to them.
Many famous friends of Bieber's, all of whom are African-American, have come out and shown support for the singer. He's handled his latest mess very well.
What do you think? Should we forgive Bieber?
And how does his apology compare to other recent celebrity mea culpas?
John Mayer told Playboy in 2010 that he gets a "n-gger pass" because African-Americans like him. He apologized via Twitter with: "It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged."
Christian Bale was caught on tape, exploding during the filming of Terminator: Salvation. But he called himself a "punk" during an apologetic radio show appearance and admitted he was "way out of order."
Most awkward apology ever? It was bad enough when Michael Richards dropped the N Word while performing a comedy routine. But then he apologize via satellite while friend Jerry Seinfeld appeared on The Late Show.
Nearly 20 years ago, Hugh Grant almost ruined his career by receiving oral sex from a prostitute. But his open apology on The Tonight Show saved his neck and catapulted Jay Leno to the top of the ratings game.
Mel Gibson revealed himself to sort of be a Jew-hating monster in 2006. He later told Diane Sawyer: "What I need to do to heal myself and to be assuring and allay the fears of others and to heal them if they had any heart wounds from something I may have said. So, this is the last thing I want to be is that kind of monster.
OOPS! Julianne Hough received a lot of flak for this Halloween costume, prompting a statement that read: "I am a huge fan of the show Orange is the New black, actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created. It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize."
Paula Deen got in a lot of hot water for using the N Word in her past. Through tears, she later said: "I believe that every one of God's creatures was created equal, no matter what church you go to pray. I believe that everyone should be treated equal, and that's the way I was raised."
Tiger Woods slept with every cocktail waitress in Las Vegas. His subsequent apology ("I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart...") clearly worked: he is now dating Lindsey Vonn.
Arnold Schwarzenegger cheated on his wife with the housekeeper AND fathered a child out of wedlock. "There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry," the Governor said at the time.
Reese Witherspoon was booked for drunk driving and then harrassed the police after they confronted her husband. "I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said. It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse," she offered as an apology.
Yes, Lance Armstrong took steroids. A lot of steroids. "I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times," he told Oprah once the truth came out. "I made those decisions, they were my mistake and I'm here to say sorry."
We still can't believe it: Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson. But at least she seemed broken up about it: "This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry."
Jonah Hill used a gay slur when arguing with a cameraman. Hill said he "sucks at being a famous person" and "lost his cool," adding that his remark is not a reflection of his feelings toward any group of people.
Gary Oldman went off on a rant to Playboy in which he defended Mel Gibson and said Jewish people run Hollywood. He later recanted and apologized with: "Anything that contributes to this stereotype is unacceptable, including my own words on the matter."