This Diane Sawyer Interview With Britney Spears Has People Outraged

Sawyer's questions and comments in this 2003 interview with the Princess of Pop have her under fire.

Ever since the new documentary Framing Britney Spears dropped on Feb. 5, it's been all Hollywood and Britney Spears fans can talk about. The New York Times doc highlights a host of personal and societal factors that contributed to Spears' fall from her throne as the Princess of Pop, but it also specifically points to people who were players in her downfall, from the paparazzi who photographed her shaving her head to Justin Timberlake, who's received the bulk of fans' ire. But now, journalist Diane Sawyer is under fire for her treatment of Spears in a Nov. 2003 interview featured in the film that showcases the sexism the pop star was constantly faced with. To see what Sawyer said that has people outraged, read on, and for the latest from Spears' boyfriend on the conservatorship at the center of the Framing Britney Spears documentary, check out Britney Spears' Boyfriend Just Slammed Her Dad on Instagram.

Sawyer questioned Spears about a mother's desire to shoot her.

Britney Spears addresses mom saying she wanted to shoot her in Diane Sawyer interview in 2003
ABC News via YouTube

There are many moments throughout Sawyer's 2003 interview with Spears for ABC News' Primetime that had fans gasping when they saw it played back in the new documentary. But possibly the most shocking moment is when Sawyer brought up a politician's wife's comments about wanting to shoot Spears. During the interview, Sawyer informed Spears that Kendel Ehrlich, the wife of Maryland's former governor Robert Ehrlich, said, "Really if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would."

Spears responded, "Oh, that's horrible. That's really bad," looking truly disturbed. Sawyer explained that it's "because of the example for kids and how hard it is to be a parent and keep all of this away from your kids." The pop star, who was 21 at the time, gave an unwavering response: "Well, that's really sad that she said that." However, she also noted, "I'm not here to babysit her kids."

After additional questioning from Sawyer about whether or not she thinks about her young fans' response to her "highly explicit" image, Spears retorted, "Am I responsible for them?" She also suggested parents simply change the channel if it upsets them. And for more up-to-date celebrity news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

And she blamed Spears for the end of her relationship with Justin Timberlake.

Britney Spears crying in interview with Diane Sawyer
ABC News via YouTube

Spears and Timberlake, who started out on The Mickey Mouse Club together when they were preteens, later dated from 1999 to 2002. The documentary exposed some of Timberlake's unsavory behavior following their breakup, mainly accusing Spears of cheating in his video "Cry Me a River."

"He has gone on television and pretty much said you broke his heart. You did something that caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?" Sawyer asked. Sawyer continued to press Spears to divulge the intimate details of her sex life on national TV and inquired if she had been unfaithful in the relationship. Spears wouldn't confirm or deny the rumors, but later shared that she truly thought she would spend the rest of her life with Timberlake.

And for more on Spears' and Timberlake's even earlier days, check out 19 Celebrities Who Got Their Start on "Star Search."

She criticized Spears' wardrobe choices.

Diane Sawyer questions Britney Spears
ABC News via YouTube

"What happened to your clothes?" Sawyer asked while holding up photos of a scantily clad Spears. "What is it about?" Spears was resolute in her commitment to dress how she wanted. "It's about doing a beautiful picture. I feel comfortable in my skin," she responded. "I think it's an OK thing to express yourself." Sawyer further dug into the conversation until she found a picture, from Esquire, that Spears admitted she had some regrets about. "Now, those are a little much," Spears finally said. "That's one picture, I must say, that I felt kind of weird about."

And she called into question Spears' virginity.

Diane Sawyer Brittany Spears interview
YouTube/ABC

During the early aughts, Spears' virginity became popular discourse and in the interview, Sawyer noted that Spears had once said she intended to remain a virgin until marriage, which the world then knew didn't pan out, especially after Timberlake revealed they had sex to Howard Stern. "If you were talking to your little sister [Jamie Lynn Spears] now, and the girl who said she was going to stay a virgin until she got married, do you still think there's something to be said for that?" asked Sawyer.

She also criticized Spears' kiss with Madonna.

Britney talks about kiss with Madonna with Diane Sawyer
ABC News via YouTube

When both Christina Aguilera and Spears kissed Madonna at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards—a publicity stunt that Madonna came up with—it was Spears who gained the bulk of the attention, leading Sawyer to question her about it. "It's one thing not to want to be the role model anymore; it's another thing not to know that a lot of young girls are looking at this… a lot of them," Sawyer said of the kiss. She then asked why the kiss was included in the performance, inquiring if it was "a lesbian chic thing" and if she warned her younger sister about it. To see what Madonna's daughter looks like now, check out Madonna's Daughter Lourdes Looks Just Like Her in New Ads.

Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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