March 8, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Howard Stern, once a critic, is now ‘full-on Free Britney’

After years of using Britney Spears as a punch line to cruel jokes, radio personality Howard Stern has done an about-face on the pop star after watching the new “Framing Britney Spears” documentary. He’s no longer tuning in to see “what kind of train wreck she is,” as he put it back when Spears’ life was upended by public struggles.

“I think I’m Free Britney now, I think I’m full-on Free Britney,” Stern told longtime sidekick Robin Quivers this week on his SiriusXM show, referencing the fan-fueled #FreeBritney movement. He said he saw the FX documentary Sunday night.

“You watch this documentary and you see the press kind of treated her like s—,” Stern said. “The girl was like 19-years-old or something. And then you forget these things.”

Speaking on his Monday show, which was rerun Thursday, he blamed Spears’ conservatorship in part on sexism. He discussed famous guys including Shia LaBeouf and Gary Busey who have behaved erratically but haven’t had their autonomy taken away.

“If Charlie Sheen is running his own life — Kanye West, is he hurting himself? Is his career imploding? He doesn’t have [a conservatorship],” Stern said. The reason, in the radio host’s opinion: “because he’s a man.”

Stern said Spears “might go bankrupt” quickly if she got her decision-making rights back, but that was her business.

“Ozzy [Osbourne] bit the head off of a bat in a business meeting. He’s in charge of his own finances,” Stern said.

The radio host had snarked heavily on the “Oops! … I Did It Again” hitmaker during her most turbulent years.

“Framing Britney Spears” follows the singer’s ascent to superstardom as well as her public meltdown. It examines the need for conservatorships of her person and her finances. Since the documentary premiered earlier this month, fans have been holding celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Diane Sawyer, Joel McHale and Katy Perry accountable for their past behavior toward Spears.

Stern was also fond of bashing Spears back then, making jokes at her expense.

Among the more infamous examples: in 2012, after the “Toxic” singer was named as a judge on Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” talent competition show, Stern called it a brilliant decision because, in his opinion, Spears “still thinks the Earth is flat.” He said he didn’t expect her to give contestants any real criticism.

“I think Britney’s gonna stand there and eat a lollipop and wear a sexy outfit,” Stern said (via MTV News). “I don’t anticipate great opinions from her. I think she’s gonna sit there like J. Lo and [in a mock-feminine voice] ‘Oh, you’re wonderful, you’re terrific. Do you think I can get a perfume endorsement out of this? You think I can get to perform on the show?’”

Stern said at the time he would “tune in to see what kind of train wreck she is, absolutely.”

He had also hosted Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst in 2003 during which the singer went on about Spears’ breasts and claimed to have hooked up with her (which Spears denied).

Timberlake was among the first to reach out to Spears last week with an apology for his behavior after they broke up, including using a Spears lookalike in the video for his 2002 hit “Cry Me a River.” He also extended his apology to his 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show partner, Janet Jackson, whose career stalled after what was described as the original “wardrobe malfunction.”

“I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism,” he wrote in his apology posted on Instagram.