Jamie Spears is denying his involvement in a 2003 Diane Sawyer interview that made his daughter cry, prompting the pop star’s legal team to question … why?
Earlier this week, Britney Spears slammed Sawyer for a sit-down that took place when she was 21 yearscold. And while the news anchor has remained silent on the pop star’s criticism, in an interesting turn of events, her father has entered the fray, speaking up on the issue.
Spears’ father — who was suspended by the court earlier this year, after overseeing her conservatorship for 13 years — has denied he had any part in the interview from nearly 20 years ago, after his daughter claimed that he forced her to do the interview.
“Pretty lame of my dad and three men to show up at my door when I could hardly speak… they put Diane Sawyer in my living room… they forced me to talk!!!” Spears posted on Instagram this week. “I was a baby… I was almost 22 and didn’t understand… but I fucking know now!!!”
In a statement issued to Variety, a lawyer for Jamie Spears, Alex Weingarten, denied any involvement in the interview.
“Mr. Spears has no idea what Ms. Spears is talking about,” the statement says. “Jamie never set up any interview with Diane Sawyer and was not present for any such interview. He had nothing to do with Britney’s career at this point and was completely uninvolved in this interview. Jamie loves Britney very much, wishes Britney nothing but the best and hopes that she continues to seek the help that she needs to stay safe and healthy.”
Now, in an exclusive statement to Variety, the singer’s attorney, Mathew Rosengart, encourages Spears’ father to focus on answering questions regarding financial issues and eavesdropping allegations, rather than criticize his daughter over a TV interview from nearly two decades ago.
Rosengart tells Variety: “Rather than bullying and attacking his daughter, even as he claims to ‘love’ her, it would be far more appropriate for Mr. Spears and his lawyer to focus on answering the following fundamental questions, to start, which we have been asking for months: As a suspended conservator, will he now return the millions of dollars in combined salary and commissions from Britney’s work that he paid himself before he was suspended? What were the total amounts he received from his daughter’s estate? Why did he approve a $500,000 payment to Tri Star after Britney went on hiatus? Does he have any evidence to refute the allegations in the extensive New York Times expose regarding a listening device being placed in his adult daughter’s bedroom?”
Rosengart’s statement is in reference to the ongoing legal battle between Spears and her father, plus former business manager, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment, which have been accused of running an intense surveillance apparatus that tracked the singer’s communications and bugged her home. Those claims were first exposed by The New York Times, which had a whistleblower from Spears’ former security team, which was hired by her father, come forward in a documentary with the bombshell allegations.
A lawyer for Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, Charles Harder, said Tri Star “never engaged in any such activity,” citing a previously-filed declaration of Tri Star employee Robin Greenhill in support of quashing deposition notices, but providing no further detail.
At the singer’s most recent hearing on Dec. 8, Rosengart told reporters that Spears’ father has avoided appearing for deposition, and has failed to cooperate with requests for specific documents that his firm believes will “shed light in regard to his abuses and the alleged conduct.” After the Nov. 12 hearing when the star’s conservatorship was terminated, Rosengart said the elder Spears has taken up to $4 million from his client’s estate, citing public records.
While Spears’ father’s attorney issued an on-the-record statement to the media about the Sawyer interview this week, he has been mum with many recent press requests, relating to the legal issues between him and his daughter. Weingarten responded to Variety‘s request about the 2003 Sawyer interview, but he did not respond to a separate request on the same day regarding the investigation into his conduct, handling of his daughter’s finances and the eavesdropping claims. (Variety has reached out numerous times in the past for comment regarding those accusations, and has received no response.)
As for the Sawyer sit-down, in the much-talked-about TV interview, Sawyer prodded Spears about her sexuality, whether she is a good role model for young girls and her relationship with Justin Timberlake, suggesting that Spears was unfaithful and responsible for the “it couple’s” highly-publicized breakup. The interview first caught renewed attention this past February when snippets were shown in The New York Times’ documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” which zeroed in on the misogynistic treatment Spears faced by the media as a world-famous teen.
Now, the newly-freed pop star has put Sawyer on blast, in a fiery now-deleted Instagram post, writing on Monday, “Do we dare forget the Diane Sawyer interview in my apartment almost 20 years ago?” Spears, whose 13-year conservatorship was terminated one month ago, wrote, “What was with the ‘You’re in the wrong’ approach?? Geeze… and making me cry???”
In the interview, Spears broke into tears and asked for the interview to stop. The cameras kept rolling as she covered her face with her hands.
ABC News did not respond to Variety‘s request for comment, regarding Spears’ post about Sawyer.
“What happened to your clothes?” Sawyer asked a clearly-uncomfortable Spears in the 2003 interview. The news anchor then held up magazine covers of Spears and, in reference to her showing off her body, asked the star, “What is this about?” Spears told Sawyer she feels “comfortable in my skin” and was expressing herself in a “beautiful picture.” She asked why Sawyer picked on her when Kate Hudson, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez also “pose provocatively” to which Sawyer replied, “I think everybody always thought you had a different relationship to young girls.”
The “Primetime” special spent a substantial amount time focusing on Spears’ midriff and bellybutton ring with Sawyer calling it “the most valuable square inch of real estate in the entertainment universe.” Sawyer’s voiceover, in one instance, categorized Spears as “getting burned by the fire she lit herself.”
When Sawyer asked Spears about the breakup with Timberlake, she said, “You did something that caused him so much pain, so much suffering. What did you do?”
On her Instagram this week, Spears wrote, “Something I never shared when I had that big break up years ago was that I couldn’t talk afterwards…I never spoke to anyone for a very long time…I was in shock.” Spears then claimed that her father forced her to do the interview two days later.
When “Framing Britney Spears” was released in February, Sawyer was one of many figures to come under fire for past interviews with the pop star. In the documentary, a male journalist asked a young Spears about her breasts; Jay Leno was criticized for his late-night jokes about the singer; and a male radio host interviewed Timberlake about sleeping with Spears, asking, “Did you fuck Britney Spears?” to which Timberlake laughed and said, “OK, I did it.” (Timberlake apologized after the documentary was released, stating, “I failed.” He then voiced his support for his ex when she testified about her conservatorship this past June.)
As evidenced by Spears speaking out, the upside of the pop star’s story is that a spotlight has been placed on the treatment of women and the nasty narratives surrounding them in the media.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from a lawyer representing Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, who reached out to Variety, after this article was published.