Diane Sawyer Faces Backlash and Calls to Apologize Over 2003 Britney Spears Interview

More than a decade after her 2003 sit-down with Britney Spears, Diane Sawyer's interview is facing a harsh glare after being resurfaced in the new documentary special, Framing Britney Spears.

By Samantha Schnurr Feb 09, 2021 4:53 PMTags

Hindsight is not reflecting kindly on Diane Sawyer

On Friday, Feb. 5, The New York Times Presents' highly anticipated episode "Framing Britney Spears" premiered. The 75-minute episode explored Britney Spears' rise to fame, scrutiny in the limelight and what led to the creation of the conservatorship she is still currently under, which has more recently sparked the #FreeBritney movement. 

In the course of explaining the pop icon's story, the episode resurfaced old interview footage that, simply put, has not aged well, particularly regarding how Spears was treated in the aftermath of her breakup from Justin Timberlake. Fans and critics alike have since taken issue with Sawyer, whose November 2003 interview with the singer was featured at points in the piece. In one instance during their sit-down, Sawyer told then-21-year-old Spears, "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?" 

"Framing Britney Spears'" Most Disturbing Moments

In another instance, Sawyers brings up former First Lady of Maryland Kendel Ehrlich, who said if she had an opportunity to shoot Spears, "I think I would." Spears called the comment "horrible" and "really bad" while Sawyer continued to explain. "Because of the example for kids," the journalist said in part, "and how hard it is to be a parent." Sawyer went on to say, "and keep all of this away from your kids," though that portion wasn't shown in the episode. 

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

"Well, that's really sad that she said that," Spears reiterated, defending herself. "I'm not here to, you know, babysit her kids."

Online, critics have taken aim at Sawyer's Instagram account, spamming her comment section with snake emojis, calls for her to apologize to Spears and for the veteran broadcaster to be "canceled." As one comment urged, "You should absolutely publicly apologize to Britney Spears immediately!" 

There's been a similar reaction on Timberlake's Instagram account, where Spears' supporters have not minced words about the "Better Days" singer and called him to apologize to his ex. E! News has reached out to Sawyer and Timberlake's reps for comment, but has not gotten a response. 

Meanwhile, in addition to fans, fellow stars have spoken out in support of Spears, including most recently The View co-host Meghan McCain. "One of the greatest living entertainers, she deserves better than what we have given her," McCain partly wrote on Instagram Feb. 9. "Free Britney."