LATEST: Justin Timberlake's former bodyguard has leapt to the singer's defence amid allegations he is a racist - labelling the star "the blackest white boy I know".

KENNETH HUNTER, who was employed by Justin's former band 'N Sync for four years until 1998, spoke out after former tour manager IBRAHIM DUARTE launched a $10.2 million (GBP6 million) lawsuit against the band, claiming he was the victim of racial abuse at their hands.

In his suit, Duarte claims, "After the band terminated the employment of security professional Kenneth Hunter, they made fun of the way Mr Hunter spoke and mimicked his accent in a racially offensive way."

But Hunter, who has stayed pals with Justin and even met up with him in Frankfurt, Germany last month, (NOV03), has rubbished these claims.

He says, "I never heard that. They never said anything derogatory about me. I got let go of because of political stuff between security and management. Justin's whole security staff are basically black, even now. Any suggestion Justin is racist is an outright lie.

"There were no racial slurs or anything. I've always said he's the blackest white boy I know. His characteristics, the way he sings, the whole soul vibe about him. I've never really witnessed a Caucasian person that had those characteristics. It's also the people he hangs out with - he's got a lot of black friends.

"I never heard him or any of the other band members say anything like 'n*ggers'.

"Duarte's a good tour manager. I'll leave it at that. I've got nothing against him."

22/12/2003 14:13