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A new documentary detailing Britney Spears' rise to fame, her objectification in the media, and the controversial conservatorship that has seemingly come to overshadow her life has once again thrust the pop star into the spotlight.
Spears has long been a lightning rod: she's adored by legions of fans, but her very public highs and lows have also garnered intense, and in some cases arguably misogynistic, media scrutiny. "Framing Britney" explores her life and the ways in which she's been made a pop culture object at the expense of her personhood.
One over-the-top example of her mistreatment is when a prominent politician's wife declared she’d like to shoot the singer, evidently perturbed at Spears' status as a role model.
Kendel Ehrlich was the first lady of Maryland, wife of then-Gov Robert Ehrlich, when she made the shocking declaration at a 2003 conference on, of all topics, domestic violence. Ehrlich, then 42, was speaking at the conference when she roped the pop star into the conversation, expressing the need for "educating our women to get as much schooling as possible, to not become dependent on anyone else,” CBS News reported in 2003.
"It is incredibly important to get that message to young women,” she said. “You know, really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.”
Spears was 21 at the time.
After the shooting comment, Ehrlich laughed and elaborated.
"I hate to say that, but you know, like I said, I'm raising a boy … and I think, 'Oh my goodness, what would I do if I had a daughter who is seeing these images and having peer pressure?'"
Journalist Diane Sawyer asked Spears for her reaction in a 2003 interview, while also apparently probing the pop star about her so-called poor role model status.
“Oh, that’s horrible. That’s really bad,” Spears said in a clip from that interview, included in “Framing Britney.” She went on to call it "sad."
The statement was undoubtedly horrible enough that Ehrlich issued an apology. Well, kind of. She apologized for the shooting comment but not about disparaging Spears as a bad influence.
Days after the story made headlines, Ehrlich stated that she "inadvertently used a figure of speech,” CBS News reported in 2003.
"It was off-the-cuff and in jest, and that's stupid when you're in public life, and I should know better," she said, adding that she would have liked to apologize to Spears in person.
While she said she regretted that particular statement, Ehrlich said she stood by her stance that pop stars can make it difficult for women to be raised in a way that they can stand up against domestic violence. She then suggested that the Spears should organize some sort of domestic awareness charity concert in Maryland, according to an archived 2003 Baltimore Sun story.
Following the release of the documentary on Friday, Ehrlich simply tweeted a link to the 2003 CBS apology article. She didn't elaborate on the controversy, and her tweet has sparked criticism.
"'Sorry I said I would shoot her BUT' no u should say 'sorry I couldn’t raise my own daughter and thought a pop star should be responsible for it. Sorry for saying I would harm a young woman who is the victim +who didn’t invent sex, sorry for projecting internal misogyny on her,'" one user wrote.
Ehrlich most recently served as the director of the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking at the Department of Justice under former President Donald Trump. She has not immediately responded to Oxygen.com's request for comment.
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