For more than a minute during his post-race interview with NBC, Olympic bronze medalist Bode Miller was on camera weeping.
The moment Miller took third place in the Super G event at the Sochi Games had to be bittersweet. It made him one of the most medaled Olympic skiers and also the oldest athlete, at 36 years old, to place in an Alpine event. But his brother, a snowboarder, wasn’t there to see it. He died last April.
Amid his triumphs, the death of his brother, Chelone, was something NBC correspondent Christin Cooper wasn’t about to let Miller forget.
And indeed, the topic of his brother’s death was “a relevant area to pursue, part of his Olympic biography,” New York Times sports and TV columnist Richard Sandomir observed.
But the level to which Cooper pressed the issue after Miller became visibly upset is drawing criticism.
“Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?” Cooper asked.
Speaking haltingly, Miller answered: “I mean, a lot, obviously, just a long struggle coming in here. And, uh, just a tough year.”
Cooper pressed forward: “I know you wanted to be here with Chelly, really experiencing these games; how much does it mean to you to come up with a great performance for him? And was it for him?”
Miller answered the question — that he didn’t know if it was for his brother or to “make myself proud” — visibly struggling to keep his composure.
“If you’ve made a medal winner cry, it is time to simply say ‘thank you’ and move on,” Sandomir wrote in the Times, branding the interview overall as going “too far.”
But it wasn’t over: Cooper brought it back to Miller’s start when he had been looking up at the sky.
“It just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?” she asked while Miller wiped away tears.
At that point, Miller bent over and hid his face. Even after Cooper’s interview ended, the camera remained on Miller from various angles for a long minute as he broke down and was comforted by friends and eventually by his wife.
Watch the interview:
David Bauder with the Associated Press blasted Cooper’s interview, calling it “a shameful spectacle.”
“Cooper repeated essentially the same question — a variation of ‘how does it feel?’ — again and again and again until she not only drew tears, but a complete breakdown by Miller over the death of his younger brother within the past year,” Bauder wrote. “It was tone-deaf and cruel, and short-circuited the thoughtful, intelligent perspectives Miller had started to offer until he couldn’t talk anymore. It’s even more inexplicable that NBC felt the need to show it all; it wasn’t live.”
Despite the criticism and outrage on his behalf, Miller defended Cooper and the interview on Twitter.
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