After becoming the oldest medalist in Olympic alpine history, Bode Miller found himself in an interview with NBC reporter Christin Cooper, who questioned him repeatedly about the death of his brother, and how that loss has shaped his experience at the Olympics. While such personal questions are often asked of athletes in this type of situation, Cooper seemed not to take any of the hints that her line of questioning was pushing Miller into an extremely emotional state, and she failed to let up until he had broken down into tears, hidden his face, and had been rendered speechless.
The scene sparked an angry outcry from fans and journalists alike, who felt Cooper lacked tact and sensitivity. The AP’s David Bauder, for instance, called the interview “tone-deaf and cruel, and short-circuited the thoughtful, intelligent perspectives Miller had started to offer until he couldn’t talk anymore,” and The New York Times‘ Richard Sandomir wrote that “Cooper and NBC lacked the sensitivity to know when enough was enough.”
In a classy and kind response to the uproar, Miller himself took to Twitter to thank his fans for expressing their concern for his well-being, but also to defend his interviewer.
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
He also retweeted this statement, which echoes the sentiment that Cooper was not solely to blame for the unrelenting questions.
— Agent Zero (@Agent_Zeero) February 17, 2014
In response to both the outraged fans and Miller’s tactful response, NBC released a statement, saying:
“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.”
Because we think Miller’s handling of the situation demonstrated an above-and-beyond level of kindness, humility and tact, we find the wording of NBC’s statement obnoxious. The line that says the network is “gratified” by Miller’s peace-making reads like NBC considers itself justified or vindicated, rather than seeing itself as being (very luckily) forgiven for a major misstep without even hinting at an apology.
But rather than continuing to voice our admiration for Miller or our disgust with NBC, we’ll just let Keith Olbermann take it from here…