First lady Kendel Ehrlich could eclipse the growing furor about a comment that she would like to "shoot" sexy pop idol Britney Spears with a happier pronouncement - that she is pregnant with the first family's second child.
Speculation about Kendel Ehrlich's pregnancy coursed through the State House yesterday with almost as much vigor as the first lady's comments about Spears.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s staff put out word that a major announcement was expected tonight at a fashion show fund-raiser at the Baltimore Convention Center. While top aides would not discuss the subject, sources close to the family confirmed the pregnancy.
Kendel Ehrlich appeared to link the two topics when she offered an apology for what she said were "inappropriate" remarks about Spears made at a domestic violence prevention conference last week.
Explaining the context of her comment about why sexualized entertainment figures such as Spears were poor role models, Ehrlich said: "It's just an issue regarding parenting, and I am very focused on parenting right now, for lots of reasons."
She rebuffed other questions.
Asked whether Kendel Ehrlich was pregnant, press secretary Greg Massoni claimed not to know because the issue was a private family matter. "I'm not a member of that family," he said.
Kendel Ehrlich, 42, and the governor, 45, have a son, Drew, who is 4. In casual conversations, asked if he was interested in having more children, Robert Ehrlich wondered if he and his wife were too old for children.
It would be the second time in recent years that Government House witnessed a birth. Gov. Parris N. Glendening and wife Jennifer Crawford had a daughter, Gabrielle Mona, in August last year.
While saving the official announcement for tonight, the first lady and her staff spent yesterday tamping down controversy over the Spears comment that threatened to escalate into a full-blown media maelstrom.
On Friday, while addressing a domestic violence prevention conference in Frederick, Kendel Ehrlich decried the fact that many women refused to testify in domestic abuse cases because they feel attached to their boyfriends or husbands. She blamed the entertainment industry for disseminating objectified images of women.
"Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would," she said, laughing after the remark.
Yesterday, for the first time, Kendel Ehrlich apologized.
"I really regret making this statement," she said. "It was off-handed, it was in jest, and it was inappropriate. And I know better. I do a lot of public speaking, and I really shouldn't have done it. And for all that, I apologize."
Earlier this week, the first lady's office stood by the statement, saying she "inadvertently used a figure of speech" but would not change the sentiment behind it.
But television stations throughout the country and newspapers across the globe picked up versions of the story. By yesterday, the first lady's tone had changed.
"I would also like to say that I apologize to Britney Spears, [and] anyone affiliated with her," Ehrlich said. "It would be great to have her come to Maryland so I could do it in person, and maybe do a benefit concert for domestic violence. We'd love to promote that, and we'd love to see her here."
There was no immediate word from Spears' camp on the offer.
Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins University, predicted that the story would fade away.
"Usually these things blow over in a little while. But there will be a lot of jokes," Crenson predicted, before offering one of his own. "Some may regard this as the first hint of Schwarzenegger-style politics in Maryland."