Since the days of dial-up, it’s been fashionable for fame-warped celebrities to follow up their ugly words and deeds with half-assed apology tours to put the shine back on their sullied reps. But the release of Framing Britney Spears has, at least for the moment, flipped that script—with everyone from standups to singers to talking heads (plus an entire magazine) lining up to say they’re sorry to the once-again-beloved pop star.
Here’s a sampling of the folks who’ve recently issued apologies to Spears, either to calm the ire of her fans or their own guilty hearts, plus some who might be pressured to do so any day now.
The Print Media
“We’re sorry, Britney. ❤️” Glamour magazine announced on Instagram. “We are all to blame for what happened to Britney Spears—we may have not have caused her downfall, but we funded it. And we can try to make up for that. Link in bio to read more about the new documentary on the #FreeBritney movement.”
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The New York Times, which produced the Hulu/FX doc, admitted it hasn’t been above piling on over the years, but stopped short of examining itself, focusing instead on the mea culpas of others, including former Us Weekly editor Jen Peros.
“Her story hit at a time when print magazines were hunting for the story of the week,” she said, “and when you found a celebrity—I hate to say it—spiraling or acting abnormally, that was the story. And we knew it would sell magazines.”
Former TMZ producer Dax Holt, told the Times, “I can’t even imagine what it would be like being a focal point of the world’s attention for so many years. One little misstep and the whole world is laughing at you.”
The paper also points to People magazine’s long obsession with Spears, but People has yet to address its 2007 article and photo spread on Britney’s infamous breakdown, headlined “Newly Bald Britney: My Mom is Going to ‘Freak.’”
Craig Ferguson went viral post-Framing for refusing to joke about Britney’s troubles on The Late Late Show, choosing to reflect on his own struggle with alcohol abuse—while being quick to mention that he was not accusing Spears of being on that same path.
During an interview at the time, Ferguson said, “I wasn’t trying to take a stance against the other guys. What I try to do here increasingly is to just say what I want […] I’d rather be able to look at myself in the mirror and talk to my kids. I want to do the type of television that I’m proud of.”
Sadly, “the other guys,” were never so kind.
Jay Leno’s countless Brit barbs include 2008’s, “Britney Spears’s two-and-a-half-year-old son, Sean Preston, was photographed holding a pack of cigarettes and a lighter[…] Britney said it’s not as bad as it looks. She said the kid only smokes when he’s been drinking.”
That kind of thing never flew with Madonna, who told Leno in 2003, “You better not try [telling Britney jokes] while I’m on,” explaining, “I think the media likes to, you know, give her a hard time. And it takes a couple of years to figure out how to deal with that. So I help her with that. I see her like a little sister, to tell you the truth.”
Leno defended his goofs, saying, “[W]hen you see a young person who’s incredibly attractive, and successful, that seems OK to poke fun at, as opposed to someone who is maybe not doing as well. I mean, I’ve had it done to me.”
Conan O’Brien, meanwhile, hasn’t taken any flak for lines like,“[W]hen Britney got out of the car, people screamed, ‘Hey, look, that bald guy has a vagina.’”
Nor has Jon Stewart been called out for joking in 2004 that Spears got married to get her first wedding “out of the way…probably in the same way she lost her virginity.”
David Letterman also isn’t being blasted for his Britney jibes, but the renewed interest in Spears has caused his 2013 interview with Lindsay Lohan to resurface. In it, Letterman grilled Lohan so hard about rehab that the shaken actress could only say, “We didn’t discuss this in the pre-interview.”
Diane Sawyer has yet to heed calls—including from the hosts of The Talk—to make amends for asking Spears in 2003 why she caused ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake “so much pain, so much suffering,” and demanding, “What did you do?”
Likewise, former NBC anchor Matt Lauer is being called on for asking Spears “Is Britney a bad mom?” during a 2006 Dateline interview, but he sure wasn’t sorry on Watch What Happens Live in 2017, when he blamed Britney because “she got very emotional.”
Britney’s onetime boyfriend was on a roll last week, seeking redemption on Instagram from Janet Jackson for the 2004 Super Bowl “Wardrobe Malfunction” and from Spears for using her as an early media prop and for putting their breakup on her shoulders. Timberlake wrote that he “benefitted from a system that condones misogyny and racism,” adding, “I know I failed.”
The comedian shared her sorries on Twitter for her 2007 MTV Video Music Awards act, including, “Have you seen Britney’s kids? Oh my God, they are the most adorable mistakes you will ever see!”
Blaming the bit on diarrhea, Silverman called the incident “unfortunate” and offered, “I wish I could delete it but I can’t.”
I wish I could delete it but I can’t. But you are posting it for people to see. So r u trying to be kind or right?
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) February 8, 2021
The gossip monger who’s spent the last decade groveling for the entire world’s forgiveness for a career founded on drawing DNA samples on women’s faces, also got in on the apolo-palooza Monday, telling Good Morning Britain, “I regret a lot or most of what I said about Britney. Thankfully, hopefully, many of us get older and wiser.”
One of his more offensive trespasses: featuring a T-shirt on his site that read “Why couldn’t it be Britney?” after Heath Ledger passed away.