Bode Miller's Tearful Olympic Interview: Did the Questions (and Extreme Closeup) Go Too Far?

Get More: Controversy, Sports

Bode-Miller-crying-winer-olympics-sochiAs a kid, I used to get a special thrill from the intro to ABC’s Wide World of Sports — especially the tagline about “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Last night, however, NBC apparently decided that “the discomfort of heartbreaking tears” trumped both of those elements — or at least that was the widespread response to an interview of Bode Miller that the network aired after he tied for the Bronze medal in the super-G race in the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia.

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Intentional or not, reporter Christin Cooper’s line of questioning seemed designed specifically to activate the tear ducts of the veteran skiier, whose brother Chelone, a professional snowboarder, died last year at the age of 29. Perhaps just as disconcerting, NBC chose to film Miller in extreme closeup — the better to detect even the slightest hint of waterworks — and air the taped interview in its entirety during prime time. (Nope, nobody in the NBC newsroom watched the footage and thought, “Maybe we can spare everyone a little ickiness and cut away early.”)

Miller, actually, brought up his late sibling at the start of the Q&A, noting, “My brother passing away, I really wanted to come back here and race, you know, the way he sensed it.” Cooper followed up by asking, “Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?”

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“A lot, obviously,” the skiier responded, his voice beginning to break with emotion. “Just a long struggle coming here, and just a tough year. And uh…”

Cooper then continued to ask about Miller’s recent loss: “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?”

“Um, I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him, but I really wanted to come here and I guess, make myself proud,” Miller said tearfully.

Cooper then asked her third consecutive question centered around Chelone’s death and Miller’s feelings about winning an Olympic medal in the absence of his brother: “And you’re lookin’ up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re just talkin’ to somebody. What’s going on there?”

At this point, Miller doubled over crying, as the NBC cameras continued to roll.

While NBC and Cooper took plenty of heat on social media overnight, Miller gave a followup interview with Matt Lauer on Today defending the reporter and former skiier. “I have known Christin a long time, and she’s a sweetheart of a person. I know she didn’t mean to push,” he said. “I don’t think she really anticipated what my reaction was going to be, and I think by the time she realized it, it was too late. I don’t blame her at all.” Miller also took to Twitter to reiterate his support of Cooper.

Still, several questions remain in the wake of the interview: Did Cooper ask one too many questions about Miller’s loss, or was she within her right to pursue the line of questioning as far as she pleased? Should NBC have considered not airing the interview in its entirety? Did the extreme closeup of Miller’s face make the whole experience even more uncomfortable? And lastly, should networks be of the mind that — when covering sporting events — the actual sports themselves provides enough drama on their own, without having to mine the personal struggles of its participants for added emotion?

Watch a YouTube clip of the Miller interview below, then take our polls and hit the comments to expand on your thoughts!

Comments (59)

  • She knew the death of his brother was a sore subject and yet she knew if she managed to get him to cry it would get high ratings

    Comment by Mare – February 17, 2014 07:44 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • The Olympics already get high ratings, this doesn’t make a difference. He brought up his brother’s death, she just did what a reporter is supposed to do. I have no problem with this. He was free to walk away if he didn’t like the questioning.

      Comment by Abe Froman – February 17, 2014 11:32 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • After the interview as he walked away to have some time to decompress you NBC reporters kept the cameras rolling as he seeked comfort. Come on…..that was absolutely disheartening on Christian’s part……you should only go so far….she just kept pressing and pressing….Shame on her…….I give her zero credit for that interview……Horrible. Absolutely horrible to FORCE him to tears and keep on pressing……you are no reporter…you are inhuman!

        Comment by Marie Frank – February 17, 2014 01:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • I turned to my husband immediately and said, “They’re trying to make him cry.” It was disgusting. She kept prodding him. And I’ve found those extreme close-ups (let us see the tears! let us see you cry!) nauseating for some time. But I do find it kind of strange that you should ask these questions and take this stance and then put the interview on your website!

          Comment by JVee – February 17, 2014 07:56 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Not stopping the interview when he got uncomfortable was insensitive on the part of the reporter. Not turning off the camera when he got uncomfortable was insensitive. We didn’t need to see him lean over in complete break-down.over and over.

    Comment by Joan – February 17, 2014 07:55 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • When did broadcast news become about making and watching people cry?

    Comment by Freddie – February 17, 2014 07:55 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • When reporters started realizing they could get a tearful reaction out of a mother,…”How did you feel when you saw your daughter hit by the garbage truck,” and unfortunately it’s been going on for years. And it’s not just newbies like her – Barbara Walters and Ann Curry are the QUEENS of trying to make someone cry and when they do, just sitting there staring at them.

      The thing is, if they were friends and have known each other so long, she should have known better. SHE was a skier too, right? Would she have wanted to be questioned like that?

      If NBC thought that pulled us all in with the pathos of it all, I guess they’re right, but for all the wrong reasons. It disgusted me. And it’s been going on since TV news started – I’m 67 and have seen it for decades.

      Comment by delfiteblu – February 17, 2014 09:59 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is a sporting event not a a Barbara Walters interview.

    Comment by Patty (@phouse1964) – February 17, 2014 07:57 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • While I didn’t see it until last night I felt like she was being really pushy she should have let the man have a few minutes and then talked to him but then again I wonder if this is all for ratings seeing how Bode’s wife agreed to have a mic put on her by nbc so they could catch all the sound bites if the reporter hadn’t gotten his reaction the mic on his wife would have picked it up

    Comment by Girl in MD – February 17, 2014 07:59 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I thought it was terrible. He said what he wanted and that should have been enough. NBC really took it to TMZ level reporting when the camera continued to follow him as he ducked down next to the fence trying to get a moment to collect himself. It was invasive and unnecessary.

    Comment by Kate – February 17, 2014 08:01 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I watched it last night, and I found it so insensitive that I had to turn it off, and I work for NBC.

      Comment by JJ – February 17, 2014 01:06 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I lost my brother 11 years ago. I felt so bad for Bode that I had to turn it off.

    Comment by Cher – February 17, 2014 08:01 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I lost my brother 2 years ago and it feels like yesterday. I am sorry for your loss as well.

      Comment by katedfw – February 17, 2014 09:18 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Yes it went to far! NBC is laughable in their coverage, Miller was not alone, they pushed a US female athlete in Skelton to tears about her misscarriage, Costas praises Putin, they promote Today Show hosts over sportscasters ( Patrick, Michaels) they have on staff for anchors, Merideth Vieira puts in plugs for Hillary Clinton. They promote politics, play politics, and then try to make human interest stories pushing emotional boundaries. The olympics are about sports, unified national pride. NBC has decided to to play emotion and politics no wonder their ratings are in the tank! People watch sports to escape emtional drama and politics.

    Comment by Mike – February 17, 2014 08:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Beautifully said.

      And I have another gripe about NBC; two actually. 1) ratings are down and everybody’s whining about it. Well, nobody NEEDS to watch prime time because they’ve already told you the results on MSNBC crawls and NBC nightly news, not to mention every place on the internet that tries to one-up NBC. 2) How many medal ceremonies have you seen? In the past we used to see medal ceremonies for just about everything. So far I’ve seen two – in a week and a half. I don’t understand that. I don’t even care whether or not the US won gold. I just want to see the happy results of a job well done. So far I’ve watched all the skating live, during the day instead of the five or six they choose to show us in prime time and have NOT seen a medal ceremony. I also hate that they cut out so many skaters from prime time. I would think that the Spanish (or any other country and family) audience might like to see their skaters but unless there’s a 99% chance they’ll medal, they don’t show them. I guess I’m just tired of the whole thing.

      Comment by delfiteblu – February 17, 2014 10:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree. I want to watch athletes do amazing things. I don’t want to watch a bunch of so-called “human interest” stories or 10 minute spots about how 2 people started skating together when they were kids. There’s hundreds of hours of footage of awesome athletic feats that could be shown and instead we get newscasters (not sportscasters!) droning on about stuff I couldn’t care less about. So annoying.

      Comment by Holly – February 17, 2014 02:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I didn’t know Bode Miller’s story well, I never watched him compete, but man it was tough to watch! I thought the interview was totally tactless and went too far.

    Comment by rowan – February 17, 2014 08:10 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Why were you looking up at the sky??? I mean really how long
    and how much research did that question take and as a good
    reporter timing should be everything. As he began to become
    speechless, leave it at that!!! I am surprised he did not walk
    away and leave you standing there with your pants down!!

    Comment by Geri – February 17, 2014 08:18 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • If NBC Sports wanted to ask him questions about his brother, they should have done it in a sit down interview and given him a heads up that there would be 1 or 2 questions about it. It was not the place or time. It should not have gone past 1 question if any at all. There are more than enough other questions to ask Bode Miller.

    Comment by tealeaves – February 17, 2014 08:20 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That not only felt exploitive, it felt flat-out sappy and cheap. Like nothing better than E! News would have done. You’d think they were interviewing the Bachelor and not a world-class athlete. Sickening

    Comment by Lisa – February 17, 2014 08:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I think the issue here is the insensitivity and poor journalistic skills of ALL the NBC reporters. If you watch some of the other channels their questions are absolutely ridiculous and I think make the athletes themselves feel awkward. After the USA Russia hockey match, the reporter interviewing the USA goalie ask questions that were so lame it totally made the goalie uncomfortable. Nbcs coverage of the olympics has taken a poor quality turn this year. I hope it is better in 2016.

    Comment by leigh – February 17, 2014 08:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That was brutal.

    Comment by brine – February 17, 2014 08:30 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is one very good reason that NBC’s ratings, of the Olympics, are down. This is not professional coverage, but sensationalism.

    Comment by Susan – February 17, 2014 08:32 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I had already been annoyed with the extreme closeups and focus on him and his wife all through the competition. It was obvious they were just waiting for him to freak out as other skiiers beat or came close to his time.

    Comment by sanchopanza – February 17, 2014 08:36 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I don’t think the reporter went overboard, but then I saw the interview as it originally aired live earlier on NBCSN, and in the live context, I don’t think anyone including Bode or Christie expected what was going to happen. Bode did mention his brother’s death at the opening of the interview, and it is common sense to ask further since Bode’s comment wasn’t clear, If you piece together Bode’s responses, he and his brother had planned to both be in Sochi as competitors in their sports, and his brother’s sudden death hit Bode hard, and apparently his brother (and Bode’s wife) had both pushed Bode to return to competition.
    Winning a medal in those circumstances was clearly very emotional, understandably so, and the fact that Bode is 36 most likely won’t be in Peoyan Chang in 2018 was another layer.
    That’s what happens sometimes on live television. As to what NBC chose to do for primetime, it probably could have used a cutaway, especially since Bode was already planned for the late night show, and it really wasn’t necessary to air it a third time then.

    Comment by theschnauzers – February 17, 2014 08:40 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • NBC went for the emotional jugular….but a good reporter, a smart reporter would know when to back off…Christin Cooper knew exactly what she was doing and why. She wanted him to cry and so she just kept pushing. And now she has become the news story. I can’t respect a reporter who sets out to do emotional harm.. You would think we would be beyond the “how do you feel” line of stupid questions. Nor can I respect a reporter who becomes the news story due to their own, purposeful actions. Bode Miller would like us to be gentle with Cooper…I can be gentle, I can be so gentle that I will no longer watch interviews being done by her. Sorry NBC…you can come up with as many excuses as you want…but what was put on display yesterday is pretty much inexcusable.

    Comment by CA – February 17, 2014 08:41 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That was cheap, shoddy journalism, and the fact that NBC choose to air it in it’s entirety shows you how far their standards have fallen. You have joined the ranks of the scandal rags, congratulations NBC.

    Comment by lame – February 17, 2014 09:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I haven’t watched much of the Olympics at all but tuned in yesterday and this is what I saw. It was very difficult to watch and made me very angry. That’s all I really have to say.

    Comment by wrstlgirl – February 17, 2014 09:06 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Hardly a sweetheart of a person. Ratings were more important than being a human being and backing off. She looked like she was going to approach him even when he walked away and was crouched on the ground. What a crappy, crappy thing to do to another human being. That was the single-most disgusting moment of the Olympics, IMO. I don’t want to watch someone try and break someone else’s spirit. Especially at a moment when he should have had some form of a celebration…not be pushed into a Dr. Phil emotional breakdown.

    Comment by Regina – February 17, 2014 09:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • From the audio she’s heard quietly saying “I’m sorry” so her following him is okay. The decisions to air it on the delay is all very questionable.

      But goes along with the sob story aspect that always seems to get pushed over the athletic competition for the Olympics…

      Comment by John NYC – February 17, 2014 09:26 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • She was saying she was sorry but she wasn’t taking the microphone out of his face. And I, too, saw her get ready to come after him when he was crouched along the fence. ENOUGH ALREADY.

        Comment by delfiteblu – February 17, 2014 10:10 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • NBC’s relentless “human interest” angle has no boundaries.

    Comment by Quentin Jersey (QJ201) – February 17, 2014 09:18 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I do wish there was a l rule that reporters could not talk to the athletes after a loss or a win until about an hour after the event. However the entire coverage was a disappointment, it felt that they had turned the whole event into the Bode Miller Hour. Who cares about the other competitors or countries lets just talk about Bode and his wife.

    Comment by Amanda – February 17, 2014 09:20 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Please, this drunk finally puts the bottle down & people feel sorry for him now when he’s blubbering? There was nothing wrong with the interview. There is something wrong with always sending someone over to compete who continually underperforms though.

    Comment by Diz – February 17, 2014 09:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Seriously? You’re still harping on his performance from the 2006 Olympics? He’s won 4 medals since then. I would hardly say that’s under performing. You want to talk about under performing? Let’s talk about the women’s curling team…

      Comment by Meredith – February 17, 2014 10:02 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Network TV is made up of disgustingly shameless voyeurs. They have historically lingered on tears and those shedding them much longer than is tasteful or even proper.

    Comment by Larc – February 17, 2014 09:34 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’ve seen at least 3 US Olympians break down crying due to pushy questioning in post-event interviews on NBC. It’s like that’s what they’re aiming for, trying to make people cry. To make matters even worse, NBC chooses to reair these uncomfortable, emotionally distressing moments in prime time when they could easily edit around them and not add insult to injury. It’s completely uncalled for and so hard to watch. That’s not what I want to see on Olympucs coverage.

    Comment by ninergrl6 – February 17, 2014 10:05 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That was really really uncalled for.

    Comment by Dijea (@Dijea) – February 17, 2014 10:16 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • All I thought was her questioning was very Dancing with the Stars type of questioning. It was Brooke Burke type of questioning

    Comment by Jill – February 17, 2014 10:58 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I agree that its fair to ask A question about his brother but the fact that she asked the same question so many other ways while still digging for him to say something more was the uncomfortable part. She asked once, he answered once, move on.

    Comment by Evan – February 17, 2014 11:29 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This was pretty disgusting. I turned it down when it got awkward. NBC says the public wants to know about these things. Actually I don’t. This is just an extension of the voyeurism in so called reality TV that several million people think is OK to watch every week. And to think it was on tape delay. No one at NBC thought this was not OK?????

    Comment by Boiler – February 17, 2014 11:43 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Bode Miller made olympic history with this being his sixth medal. The very personal questions and comments made regarding his late brother were way out of line coming off an emotional athletic victory in itself. Watching that interview made it feel like she was trying to be Oprah or Barbara Walters with all the serious questions. I am guessing that he felt blindsided and honestly I think it speaks to his character not to walk away.

    Comment by Sara – February 17, 2014 11:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My only comment is that I appreciate Michael S. asking these questions… it makes me feel like he at least had a sense of the media perhaps pushing the boundaries. Heart you M.S.!

    Comment by tj – February 17, 2014 12:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The reporter did go too far with the questions. I was starting to get uncomfortable and frustrated with the interview. I am sure the producers had something to do with it. They don’t care about the person, they are more concerned about a story. Typical of NBC of not caring. Olympic athletes work hard to get where they are at, and the focus should be on person on the slopes/ice ring, etc and NOT focusing so much on a death of a family member. A person needs privacy and NBC doesn’t care about pushing and respect a person’s struggle with losing a family member. That is what a support team is for (family, friends, therapy, etc) not a tv network.

    Comment by Allyson – February 17, 2014 12:37 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Christin Cooper is the news whore in Don Henley’s song DIRTY LAUNDRY..

    Comment by Jack – February 17, 2014 12:59 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Cooper is also a former USA Olympic skier

    Comment by Keith – February 17, 2014 01:37 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Of course she went too far. Everyone did. She asked him the same questions five different ways until she finally got him to break down and then the jerk of a cameraman sat there and shoved the camera in his face. Oh, and let’s not overlook the fact that NBC had HOURS to edit that footage but instead decided to air their shameful behavior for the sake of ratings and probably this discussion we’re having about it right now. Disgusting and heartless!

    Comment by SouthernBelle – February 17, 2014 02:38 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I lost my sister 5 years ago today actually. As a rule, in every day life, I think you express sympathy but then let the person who is grieving set the tone if they want to talk about it or not. On international television I think you don’t bring it up, you don’t pounce upon any statement referring to the loss and then continue to push and push. She knew what she was doing. I have to say I’m not surprised that it was NBC though. It seems to be what they want from their interviews. In my opinion.

    Comment by Kim R – February 17, 2014 03:04 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I didn’t like the open mic at all on Bode’s wife. Her comments were just too distracting in yesterday’s broadcast and took up too much time on TV. She should have said no to the open mic. Christin’s questions went too far.

    Comment by AW – February 17, 2014 03:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • NBC doing something tasteless during their Olympics coverage?! I guess water is still wet…

    Comment by Peter W Dawson – February 17, 2014 05:18 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My problem is the way they have treated Bode the entire time. The interview went too far. One or two questions, I understand as the death of his brother undoubtedly had an impact on him personally and professionally. However, I found it very invasive that they continued to mic his wife. While I’m sure they must have gotten their permission at some point, it became far too voyeuristic. They needed to have done some editing. I understand that NBC feels the need to humanize the athletes in order to get a majority of people who only follow these sports every 4 years to feel some sort of connection to them, but this went too far.
    I am glad that they brought in Meredith Vierra to interview Noelle Pikus-Pace a couple of nights ago though, as she was a little more gentle in her questions about Noelle’s miscarriage. Noelle has been very open about the fact that the miscarriage played a huge part in her coming out of retirement and doesn’t want to shy away from talking about it and that was handled much better than Bode’s interview on the slopes. It is just a matter of knowing how far to push an interview and knowing when a gentle hand is needed.

    Comment by Sara – February 17, 2014 05:26 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • The interviewer’s questions were intended to provoke a reaction and you’ll never convince me otherwise. It was a disgusting thing to see her push and push and push regarding his deceased brother and the fact that Miller defended her afterward just shows he is a class act, unlike her who should be fired.

    Comment by Amanda – February 17, 2014 10:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Cooper knows Bode very well. There has been so much pressure in him to medal and much criticism for failing to medal in the Downhill. I think Copper helped bring out the human side of Miller and bring to the forefront what has been going on his life. You may notice she is comforting him and rubbing his arm when he gets emotional. I came away from the interview with great respect and sympathy for Miller. I also respect and support Cooper as clearly does Miller.

    If you want to beef about something go after real shameful things like a President that tells daily lies.

    Comment by Fred – February 18, 2014 04:03 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
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    Comment by kathy – February 18, 2014 10:53 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am glad so many other people are disgusted by what they saw Christin Cooper do to Bode. As we watched, my husband and I both yelled at the TV for her to stop it. It was an awful thing to do to someone. Why couldn’t she focus on the bronze medal he had just won? Why couldn’t she focus on his medal record that had just made history? No, she had to go for emotional pain. It was abusive. It was disgusting to watch.

    Comment by Sarah – February 18, 2014 05:55 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Questioning him reminded me of “Hunger Games” when Stanley Tucci’s character Caesar Flickermam tried to milk emotions out of contestants. Terrible!

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