First lady's comment draws criticism

She joked about shooting Britney Spears at forum

October 08, 2003|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

First lady Kendel S. Ehrlich says she "inadvertently" quipped during a speech that she would like to shoot pop diva Britney Spears, but is standing by her sentiment that the navel-baring temptress is a poor role model for children.

Ehrlich singled out Spears during remarks Friday at a conference on preventing domestic violence sponsored by the Frederick County state's attorney's office.

In her speech, Ehrlich said that some domestic violence could be prevented if women were able to shake their dependence on abusive men and were better prepared to care for themselves and their children on their own.

The entertainment industry, she said, does a poor job of portraying women as independent figures.

"Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would," said Ehrlich, a former Anne Arundel County public defender and Harford County prosecutor. An audiotape shows she laughed after the remark.

Her comment was reported in the Frederick News-Post, and the sound clip aired Monday on WFMD-AM, a radio station in Frederick County. By yesterday, it was receiving widespread attention in the Baltimore area and was picked up by national television networks.

Kendel Ehrlich's office released a statement yesterday that stopped short of apologizing.

"As a working mother raising a four-year-old son, the first lady has concerns about the negative influences that the entertainment industry can have on young children and teenagers," said the statement. "During a public appearance, she inadvertently used a figure of speech to express those concerns."

Leah Barrett, executive director of CeaseFire Maryland, a group that promotes handgun controls, said jokes about shootings were particularly inappropriate at a domestic violence forum. Abuse victims could be facing gun threats, she said.

"That's an unfortunate choice of words," Barrett said. "I kind of feel sorry for her, but she is in a public position, so she has to be aware of the impact her words can have."

Spears, 21, is developing an ever-racier image. She recently posed topless for Rolling Stone magazine and kissed Madonna during the MTV Music Awards.

Her label, Jive Records, released a statement yesterday decrying the remark.

"Since this unfortunate comment was made at a domestic violence prevention conference, it seems that Mrs. Ehrlich has shot her own self in the foot by promoting violence," it said.

WFMD reporter Paul Turner said reaction has been muted since his report aired. "For what it's worth, our station has not gotten a lot of feedback on this," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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