The Olympics are full of tearful stories of athletes carrying on in memory of those around them. But on Sunday, many felt that NBC — specifically, interviewer Christin Cooper — stepped over the line in questioning skier Bode Miller about his late brother.
Cooper asked an increasingly distraught Miller question after question about Miller's brother Chelone, who passed away last April. The final blow came with this one: "When you're looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it looks like you're talking to somebody. What's going on there?" Miller broke down and couldn't answer.
Internet reaction was swift and decisively anti-NBC, both for the interview and the decision to air it several hours after its original taping. NBC issued the following statement:
“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal. We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”
Miller took several opportunities to absolve Cooper of any wrongdoing. On Twitter, he wrote:
I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w christin cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault. #heatofthemoment— Bode Miller (@MillerBode) February 17, 2014
"I've known Christin for a long time," Miller said on the Today Show Monday morning. "She's a sweetheart. I don't think she knew what my reaction was going to be. By the time she realized it, it was too late. I don't blame her at all. I feel bad for her taking the heat for that ... I don't think there was any harm intended."
It's too early to know if this interview will join Jim Gray's cross-examination of Pete Rose in the annals of infamous sports interviews; Miller's swift defense of Cooper should go a long way toward defusing that. Still, it's a reminder that what one person may view as a tribute, another may view as exploitation.