Paper Sorry about Madonna-Britney Kiss

09/02/2003 at 01:00 PM EDT

Madonna

Madonna

There is continued fallout from the wet lip-lock on last Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards between Madonna, 45, and Britney Spears, 21.

The Material Mom also planted one on Christina Aguilera, 22, but it was the Madonna-Britney buss that made it to the front page of Friday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution – which on Labor Day apologized to readers for running the photo, reports the Associated Press.

The snapshot, though not much bigger than a postage stamp, ran near the top of Friday's front page, with a larger version to be found in the Living section inside the paper.

The picture of the sloppy – and open-mouthed – gesture apparently elicited a deluge of complaints to the newspaper.

(In one letter published on the opinion page, a reader mused: "I am amazed at the lighthearted media coverage given the Madonna-Britney-Christina kiss. It makes me wonder whether it is getting this kind of coverage because it is every straight man's fantasy. Would a kiss between Eminem, Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent be treated in the same manner?")

On Monday, Journal-Constitution managing editor Hank Klibanoff apologized in print, likening the Spears-Madonna photo to graphic images from the war in Iraq, and saying that the responsible thing to do would have been to confine the kissing illustration to the inside rather than on page one.

"We ran images we otherwise might not have run," Klibanoff wrote. "But that was war, and war was news. The photo we ran Friday was neither, and I wish I had limited its display to the inside of the Living section."

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