Fact Check: Did Former Governor's Wife Say She Wanted to Shoot Britney Spears?

Social media users are calling for justice for Britney Spears after the New York Times aired Framing Britney Spears on Friday night as the latest episode in its documentary series, The New York Times Presents.

The episode reveals the media scrutiny Spears faced after her rise to stardom. It also sheds light on Spears' struggles with her conservatorship legal status.

Journalist Diane Sawyer has received online backlash after the episode showed clips of her 2003 ABC primetime interview with Spears that, at one point, moved Spears to tears.

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

The Claim

Television producer and writer Bryan Behar tweeted: "Diane Sawyer asked Britney Spears what she did to cause Justin pain, then told her the Governor of Maryland's wife wanted to shoot her, implying it's Britney's fault because she's a bad role model to kids," in a tweet that has received almost 5,000 likes and more than 700 retweets.

Diane Sawyer asked Britney Spears what she did to cause Justin pain, then told her the Governor of Maryland’s wife wanted to shoot her, implying it’s Britney’s fault because she’s a bad role model to kids. I don’t care how long has passed-Diane Sawyer should be ashamed of herself

— Bryan Behar (@bryanbehar) February 9, 2021

Many Twitter users posted similar comments.

"So the governor of Maryland's wife said 'if I had an opportunity to s*oot Britney, I think I would' and they actually allowed that to be aired and was played to Britney, justified it by saying it's because she's too sexual for their kids? Are they sick??? #FramingBritneySpears."

So the governor of Maryland’s wife said “if I had an opportunity to s*oot Britney, I think I would” and they actually allowed that to be aired and was played to Britney, justified it by saying it’s because she’s too sexual for their kids? Are they sick??? #FramingBritneySpears

— MANNY | #TCMSHOW 🎧 (@THECLASSICMANNY) February 7, 2021

"I think the most surprising moments for me in the Britney doc were the Diane Sawyer interview, and finding out that a politician's wife publicly said she would 'shoot Britney Spears if she could' for her crime of....having a visible belly button?"

I think the most surprising moments for me in the Britney doc were the Diane Sawyer interview, and finding out that a politician's wife publicly said she would "shoot Britney Spears if she could" for her crime of....having a visible belly button?

— sighorny beaver (pregnancy content only) (@merrydevo) February 8, 2021

The Facts

Framing Britney Spears shows partial clips of Sawyer's 2003 interview with the then-22-year-old Spears.

More than halfway into the interview, Sawyer said, "With Madonna as her model, Britney Spears has upset a lot of mothers in the country." The same year, before the interview, Spears famously kissed Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Sawyer continued by noting that the governor of Maryland's wife was one of the upset mothers.

Sawyer played a clip of a statement at a domestic violence conference by Kendel Ehrlich, wife of former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich. It can be heard in a YouTube video that contained the full interview:

At about 20:17, Ehrlich said:

"...really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would."

The interview then transitioned to Spears' reaction to the former Maryland first lady's statement.

"Oh, that's horrible, that's really bad," Spears said to Sawyer.

Sawyer replied that Ehrlich's statement is "because of the example for kids and how hard it is to be a parent and keep all of this away from your kids."

Spears then said that Ehrlich's statement is "sad" and that she is not responsible for babysitting her children.

Ehrlich is the mother of two sons.

In the 2003 interview, Sawyer mentioned that Ehrlich had to retract her statement after the public was outraged by her reference to guns.

Saturday afternoon, the day following the premiere of Framing Britney Spears, Ehrlich tweeted a 2003 CBS News article titled Britney-Bashing Gov's Wife Sorry.

https://t.co/vh7UIDa8eD

— Kendel Ehrlich (@KendelEhrlich) February 6, 2021

The article reported that "a spokeswoman for Ehrlich said she 'inadvertently used a figure of speech.' A day later, Ehrlich apologized to Spears."

"However, Ehrlich said that while she regrets her remarks, she stands by her message that sensational images in popular culture make it difficult to raise confident young women who will stand up against domestic violence," the article stated, mentioning that Ehrlich would have liked to personally apologize to Spears.

Ehrlich recently served as the director of the Office of Sex Offenders, Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking under President Donald Trump.

The New York Times Presents episode Framing Britney Spears aired on FX and can be streamed on Hulu.

The Ruling

True.

Former Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich said in 2003 that if she had an opportunity to shoot Spears, she thinks she would.

She later apologized for the statement.

Singer Britney Spears and anchorwoman Diane Sawyer
Singer Britney Spears and journalist Diane Sawyer celebrate Spears' birthday after her performance on ABC's "Good Morning America" at The Big Apple Circus Tent at Lincoln Center on December 2, 2008, in New York City. Michael Loccisano/Getty/FilmMagic