Britney Spears fans are fuming following The New York Times' "Framing Britney Spears" documentary that premiered on Hulu last Friday. Most of their anger is channeled toward Spears' dad Jamie Spears for his conservatorship over his 39-year-old daughter, which has stripped her of control over major parts of her life. But plenty more of her fans' ire is aimed toward Diane Sawyer. As the documentary shows, back in 2003 the ABC anchor conducted an interview with Spears about her tumultuous year. She and her equally famous boyfriend Justin Timberlake had a very public break up, and she was getting dragged in the media for being "overly sexual" both on stage and in studio.
When Sawyer scored the primetime interview with Spears, the pop star was understandably broken and vulnerable. And let's just say that Sawyer didn't conduct the interview with bundles of sensitivity. As is recalled in the documentary, Sawyer asked very direct questions about Spears' sex life, specifically what she did or didn't do with Timberlake, even after Spears asked Sawyer if they could "talk about something else." The interviewer, ignoring Spears' request, also demanded to know if Spears could still be a role model to her little sister Jamie Lynn and other young girls if she'd broken her word and had premarital sex. Sawyer also presented Spears with some of her provocative photoshoots and demanded to know if the pop singer regretted them.
But those weren't even the worst parts of the interview. At one point, Sawyer told Spears that the first lady of Maryland, Kendel Ehrlich, apparently fed up with Britney's image, said, "Really, if I had the opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would." The words shocked Britney, but Sawyer appeared to offer Ehrlich a defense, observing, "It's because of the example for kids and how hard it is to be a parent."
Throughout the interrogation, Spears was as polite as could be. But she did eventually break down in tears. YouTube commenters described the interview as "emotional abuse," while others described Sawyer as "exploitative" and "disrespectful."
Twitter users were on the same page, asking questions and demanding apologies from the journalist.
I’m sorry, why is Diane Sawyer defending someone who threatened to shoot Britney Spears?— Robyn Johnson (@RobynEJohnson) February 8, 2021
Diane Sawyer owes Britney Spears a sincere apology. #FramingBritneySpears— Kate (@k_shiver) February 7, 2021
I think it’s time to have a conversation about Diane Sawyer being one of the media’s greatest tools of misogyny in the aughts. Her interviews w #BritneySpears #WhitneyHouston are truly some of the most vile from an era particularly vile to women in the limelight. pic.twitter.com/SkDLlfP7H0— MOST TONY NOMINATED ONEHIT WONDER Jeremy O. Harris (@jeremyoharris) February 9, 2021
Even the ladies of the talk show "The Talk" seemed to be in agreement that Sawyer needs to say sorry, even all these years later.
"I watched this the other night and I was shocked," said co-host Amanda Kloots. "I don't think that the interviews that you see on this documentary would even be allowed today. Like, you wouldn't be able to say what these people are asking her and telling her. I think Diane Sawyer owes her an apology. I think the whole world owes her an apology."
Former late night host Craig Ferguson has been going viral too, following the documentary's premiere. But for a better reason. Spears' fans are sharing a monologue Ferguson gave in 2007 in which he explained why he refuses to poke fun at Britney because she's "vulnerable" and "just a kid."
Never forget when Craig Ferguson refused to make fun of Britney Spears. pic.twitter.com/r8AuiNPW0L— Britney Fan ?? (@BritneyHiatus) February 9, 2021
Spears's supporters have been trying to raise awareness about the singer's now 12-year conservatorship. If you Google her name, you'll find that The New York Times documentary has pushed the "Free Britney" movement from the background to the cover pages.