Celebrities

Britney Spears’ dad calls #FreeBritney a ‘conspiracy theory’

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Jamie Spears is sick and tired of how #FreeBritney — an increasingly vocal online movement claiming his daughter Britney Spears is a prisoner in a gilded cage — is painting him as a villain.

An upset Jamie, 68, told The Post that the campaign, which posits him as a cruel and opportunistic father keeping the 38-year-old pop princess under his emotional and financial control in a 12-year-long legal conservatorship, “is a joke.”

“All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” he said. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.”
Jamie angrily denied long-standing rumors that he or anyone else is skimming money off the top of Britney’s estate.

“I have to report every nickel and dime spent to the court every year,” he said. “How the hell would I steal something?”

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A sign that reads "Jail Jamie, Free Britney, Investigate Lou" sits on the ground as supporters of Britney Spears gather outside a courthouse in downtown for a #FreeBritney protest as a hearing regarding Spears' conservatorship is in session on July 22, 2020
A sign that reads “Jail Jamie, Free Britney, Investigate Lou” sits on the ground as supporters of Britney Spears gather outside a courthouse in downtown for a #FreeBritney protest as a hearing regarding Spears’ conservatorship is in session on July 22, 2020 Getty Images

The dad said what really bothers him is the aggressiveness of the #FreeBritney supporters. “People are being stalked and targeted with death threats,” he said. “It’s horrible. We don’t want those kinds of fans.

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“I love my daughter,” Jamie continued, getting emotional. “I love all my kids. But this is our business. It’s private.”

Britney’s life and struggles, however, have long played out in public.

And recently, celebrities including Ruby Rose, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, ­Ariel Winter and Rose McGowan have lent their support to the #FreeBritney movement, Instagramming and tweeting about how the singer is allegedly unable to make her own decisions about her career, personal life and health because of the ongoing conservatorship.

“Her father doesn’t allow her to drive, all of her calls & messages are monitored, she’s not allowed to vote, hang with anyone or spend her money without permission. And if she breaks a ‘rule’ he threatens to have her kids taken away,” claims one change.org petition, with more than 100,000 signatures, lobbying for Britney’s freedom.

The #FreeBritney crusaders have blasted social media with posts, purporting  to show that Jamie claimed Britney had dementia in 2008, and that Jamie and the star’s business manager, Lou Taylor of Tri Star Sports and Management, are ­embezzling from her.

Lately, Britney’s camp has started striking back: Taylor, who did not return calls from The Post, recently settled with #FreeBritney supporter Bryan Kuchar after suing him last year for creating Web sites that called Taylor the “mastermind controlling the pop star.”

A number of Spears insiders insist that the star is not a helpless pawn.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears Bauer Griffin

“Absolutely not,” Charlie Ebersol, who dated Britney for eight months in 2015, told The Post. As for the wild rumor that Jamie hires his daughter’s boyfriends and pays them $1,000 a week to date her, Ebersol said: “Not [true] in any way, shape or form.”

One insider said that while Jamie is “not perfect,” he “really stepped up for Britney.”

The conservatorship, which put much of the star’s decision-making into the hands of Jamie and lawyers, was established 12 years ago, after Britney’s very public meltdown.

At the time, it was meant to be temporary. But the fact that it’s gone on so long makes some question who is really benefiting from it. Those close to the singer, however, say that Britney is more comfortable with — and ambivalent about — the situation than people realize.

“It’s not at all a conservatorship like you read about for old people,” said the insider. “It protects her in a way people like Michael Jackson weren’t protected, from themselves and from other people. She’s been able to perform all this time because performing is where she is happiest.

Supporters of Britney Spears gather outside a courthouse in downtown for a #FreeBritney protest as a hearing regarding Spears' conservatorship is in session on July 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Supporters of Britney Spears gather outside a courthouse in downtown for a #FreeBritney protest as a hearing regarding Spears’ conservatorship is in session on July 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images

“When she’s left to her own devices is where the trouble starts. She does have some serious issues.”

Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Britney rocketed to stardom at age 17 with her first single, “. . . Baby One More Time” and remained one of the most popular artists of the next few years.

Her first eyebrow-raising behavior was in 2004, when she married a childhood pal on a whim and got an annulment 55 hours later because, according to court documents, she “lacked understanding of her ­actions.”

But things really began to unravel in 2006, after she had  wed backup dancer Kevin Federline and given birth to their eldest son, Sean. Child Services repeatedly checked in on the family, including after the baby fell out of a high chair and was seen in a vehicle on Britney’s lap rather than in a car seat.

The next year was a whirlwind of ­unhinged TV appearances; a marriage split (and subsequent divorce) two months after the birth of her second son, Jayden, with Federline; and worrisome paparazzi photos of Britney partying hard with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

Then, in early 2007, Britney checked in and quickly out of rehab, showed up at a Los Angeles beauty shop and shaved off her  hair, and attacked a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella. She went back to rehab, gave a jaw-droppingly sad performance at the VMAs, was booked on hit-and-run charges (later dropped) and lost custody of her children to Federline.

That seemed to be the straw that truly broke her. In January 2008, Britney was hauled away in an ambulance after a three-hour police standoff in which she refused to return her sons to Federline’s custody.

Weeks later, she was again taken to a hospital and placed on a psychiatric hold — leading a Los Angeles court to declare her father her legal conservator to handle virtually all her affairs.

Singer Britney Spears and Charlie Ebersol arrive at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards
Singer Britney Spears and Charlie Ebersol arrive at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards FilmMagic

During the past 12 years, she has been allowed to make records, tour and even have a Las Vegas concert residency — leading many to speculate: If she can work, why isn’t she allowed to make her decisions?

When asked whether Britney is mentally unstable, ex-boyfriend Ebersol was resolute: “Absolutely not,” he said. That statement was echoed by other former boyfriends including David Lucado, who dated her in 2014. (Britney is now dating Iranian-born bodybuilder Sam ­Asghari, 26.)

Adam Streisand agrees. The Los Angeles-based lawyer was hired by Britney in 2008 after her hospitalization, until a doctor reported that she was not competent enough to choose her own lawyer and the court appointed her a new one.

He told The Post that, even when she was near rock bottom, Britney did not appear crazy, “just agitated. She understood the concept of a conservatorship but just did not want her father to be the conservator.”
Nonetheless, Streisand does not believe that Jamie or the business managers have been skimming money from Britney. It’s believed that her fortune, said to be anywhere from $60 million to $215 million, was placed in a trust as part of the conservatorship.

“Jamie’s a weird guy, he’s a control freak,” Streisand said. “But I don’t see him as some sort of criminal mastermind in this.”

The Spears family is splintered, however. Last summer, Jamie was temporarily removed from the conservatorship after he allegedly broke down a door and grabbed Sean during an altercation, resulting in a restraining order that forbids him from seeing Britney’s two sons. In March, Jayden lashed out against Jamie on Instagram. Britney’s mom, Lynne, who divorced Jamie in 2002, has reportedly liked at least one #FreeBritney post. Last week, Britney’s brother, Bryan, said that the star wanted out of the conservatorship — but that “it has been a great thing for our family.”

The next hearing on the conservatorship is to be held Aug. 22, and it’s unclear what Britney herself wants to come of it.

Meanwhile, some are beginning to wonder if maybe Britney herself is toying with fans.

While no one disputes her mental-health struggles, Britney has had a knack for masterminding key aspects of her career ever since she came up with the concept of wearing a Catholic-schoolgirl uniform for the video of her first smash hit, “. . . Baby One More Time,” when she was only 17.

By design or not, some say the notoriously agoraphobic singer now stars in a shrewdly curated Instagram feed that keeps her in the public eye without her ever having to leave home.

Her feed is a mix of inspirational bromides, kittenish dancing and provocative, New Age-type musings from which #FreeBritney believers seek hidden meanings.

“I feel like every post is cryptic code for something…” Nicolle Ronayne commented on an Instagram photo Britney posted about the “Pink Planet… aka GJ 504b… the planet made of pink gas!”

Even the star’s appearance is viewed with suspicion. “In every Instagram picture she looks like a zombie and she’s always wearing some version of the same outfit like she’s frozen back in time in the late ’90s,” an industry insider observed. “It’s weird.”

At times, the singer almost seems to be trolling fans, coyly answering their questions in Instagram videos but rarely addressing their anguished cries asking her to let them know if she needs rescuing.

“Whatever is or is not wrong with her, the #FreeBritney movement is making her relevant at a time when a lot of pop stars [from the early 2000s] are aging out of the public eye,” veteran music producer Ed Steinberg told The Post.

“Her management, her label and Britney herself aren’t stupid. They may not have started the movement but they’re benefiting from it.”

Additional reporting by Colleen McPolin




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