Lawyer for Britney Spears' dad defends him, but #FreeBritney fans aren't having it

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Nardine Saad
·6 min read
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The legal team for Britney Spears' father is attempting to wrest back the #FreeBritney narrative that has vilified him while the singer's conservatorship case has persisted, insisting that James "Jamie" Spears loves his daughter and wants what's best for her.

But #FreeBritney advocates aren't having it.

"I understand that every story wants to have a villain, but people have it so wrong here," Jamie's attorney Vivian Lee Thoreen said Thursday during a virtual appearance on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

The Holland & Knight lawyer defended the elder Spears' role as the 39-year-old performer's conservator — known in some states as a legal guardian — despite renewed scrutiny of the protracted arrangement catalyzed by the viral #FreeBritney movement and this month's New York Times and FX documentary "Framing Britney Spears."

Incidentally, Thoreen, who specializes in complex trust, estate, conservatorship and guardianship matters, took part in the documentary about the "Baby... One More Time" hitmaker before rejoining the elder Spears' legal team last year. In the documentary, she said that she has never seen a person successfully get out of a conservatorship.

"This is a story about a fiercely loyal, loving and dedicated father who rescued his daughter from a life-threatening situation. People were harming her, and they were exploiting her," Thoreen said on "GMA."

That's why the conservatorship was first put into place in 2008 following the "Toxic" singer's public unraveling after her divorce from husband Kevin Federline, bitter custody battle and highly publicized hospitalizations, Thoreen said. It allowed her father to make personal, medical and financial decisions for the beleaguered entertainer with a probate arrangement usually utilized with the elderly or infirm.

"Jamie saved Britney's life," Thoreen said, adding that the singer's assets "were clearly being mismanaged, and she was being taken advantage of financially by some of those around her," Thoreen said.

Thoreen said that the elder Spears boosted the singer's $2.8-million fortune to nearly $60 by collaborating with her and enabling her, she added.

"He has collaborated with her to help her regain custody of her children. He has brought her finances back from disaster," she added. "And he's created a safe environment for her to live her life the way she wants, away from the media that cause her so much pain."

But the legal arrangement took a sharp turn last summer.

That's when Spears' attorney, Samuel D. Ingham III, told the court in August that Spears no longer wants her father to serve as the sole conservator of her person and wanted a bank to be named a conservator of her finances. In November, Ingham also made the bombshell revelation that the former child star is "afraid of her father" and won't perform again while he remains in charge of her career. (He has repeatedly declined requests for comment from The Times.)

In response, Thoreen deflected the topic and attempted to paint a portrait of a loving father who was confounded by those allegations.

"Early on in the pandemic, they spent two weeks with other family members, hunkered down in Louisiana, and they spent a lot of time together," she said. "Britney and Jamie went on long drives together. They played and worked in the family garden. And every night, Jamie cooked Southern comfort food that the family ate and enjoyed together.

"In that time, Britney never expressed those words to her father," Thoreen added. "She's never asked him to step aside."

Nor did she say if she thought the pushback against Jamie is coming from the singer or from her attorney.

"Jamie loves his daughter. And like any other family, issues come up from time to time, but this in no way takes away from the love and support they have for each other. Britney knows that her daddy loves her, and she knows that she can call on him any time, conservatorship or not," Thoreen said, later repeating her talking point: "Jamie serves as Britney's conservator because he loves her. He wants the best for Britney."

Thoreen didn't really address the powerful #FreeBritney movement, which Jamie has previously derided as "conspiracy theorists," who believe that the singer remains under the conservatorship against her will and is being taken advantage of by her father.

"I think we have to remember how this conservatorship was started and that Britney needed help, and that's why the conservatorship was put into place and why Jamie was appointed," she said.

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The "Piece of Me" singer did not participate in the documentary, nor did she directly address it after it debuted earlier this month. However, her Instagram account, which has long been mined for clues about her well-being, has indirectly referenced the renewed interest in her case.

"Framing Britney Spears," which explores the origins of the #FreeBritney movement, has emboldened both diehard Britney fans and casual viewers to pore over Spears' conservatorship.

The documentary has also prompted a reckoning that garnered empathetic think-pieces and apologies from those who believe they wronged the singer in the past, including her ex Justin Timberlake, shock-jock Howard Stern, comedians, journalists and MTV VJs.

On Thursday, vocal #FreeBritney advocates pushed back against Thoreen's narrative on Twitter, criticizing the lawyer for her stance and for spending the interview "trying to remember what her phony script said."

A representative for Thoreen did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment Thursday.

Here's a look at what Spears' fans had to say:

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.