Just when it seemed like #SochiProblems might overshadow #NBCfail this year, the network kicked off its second week of Olympics coverage with an interview that infuriated the denizens of Twitter. On Sunday, 36-year-old Bode Miller won the bronze medal in the men’s super-G competition, making him the oldest Olympic Alpine medalist ever. But in a post-race interview, what should have been a triumphant moment ended with Miller in tears when NBC reporter Christin Cooper pressed him to talk about his brother Chelone, who died last year of seizure at 29.
Cooper was attacked on Twitter for being “heartless,” but the issue isn’t just that she asked a question about his brother. Chelone was a professional snowboarder, and in May his friend told the Boston Globe, “That was his big dream, to compete in the Olympics with Bode.” Chelone’s death is a widely reported part of Miller’s story, and he actually brought him up in his interview with Cooper, saying, “With my brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race the way he sends it.”
Cooper’s mistake was pushing for more even after she had an answer sure to satisfy her NBC bosses’ quest for a touching TV narrative. “When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?” she asked the already teary Miller.
Early on Monday morning, Miller defended Cooper on Twitter, saying he didn’t blame her for misjudging the situation during an intense moment.
But Miller’s subsequent retweet suggests he hasn’t forgiven NBC.
NBC had hours to decide how to handle the footage when it was broadcast in prime time. Would they cut after Miller talked about making himself proud and wiped tears from his eyes, or at least after he put his head down on the fence and wept? Nah. NBC kept the camera on Miller for more than a minute as he was comforted by his wife, and added narration about how the emotion he’s been carrying since his brother’s death “continues to flow out.”