How far is too far? Bode Miller's moment in the spotlight at the Sochi Olympics took a turn for the uncomfortable when a reporter, NBC's Christin Cooper, brought him to tears with repeated questions about his brother Chelone, who died of an apparent seizure in April 2013.
Miller was already emotional when he walked over to talk with Cooper after winning bronze at the men's super-G event on Sunday, Feb. 16. Speaking about the significance of these Olympics compared with others in which he'd competed, the 36-year-old athlete said he wanted to come back and do right by his brother.
"Bode, you're showing so much emotion down here. What's going through your mind?" Cooper asked, according to a transcript from USA Today.
"A lot, obviously," he replied. "A long struggle coming in here. And, uh, just a tough year."
"I know you wanted to be here with Chilly experiencing these games. How much does it meant to you to come up with a great performance for him?" Cooper said. "And was it for him?"
"I mean, I don't know if it's really for him. But I wanted to come here and, uh, I don't know, I guess, make myself proud," Miller answered, wiping away tears.
Cooper then asked yet another follow-up question about Chelone, which proved to be too much for Miller to take. "When you're looking up in the sky at the start," she began, "we see you there, and it just looks like you're talking to somebody. What's going on there?"
At that, Miller broke down and dropped his head, unable to continue the interview. Cooper apologized, but viewers skewered her on Twitter, saying she'd gone too far and should have been more sensitive.
Miller, for his part, defended her tactics. "I appreciate everyone sticking up for me. Please be gentle w/ Christin Cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault," he tweeted on Sunday. "My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have. Pushing is part of it, she wasn't trying to cause pain."
Addressing the incident further on the Today show on Monday, Feb. 17, he told Matt Lauer that he had no hard feelings toward Cooper. "I have known Christin a long time, and she's a sweetheart of a person," he said. "I know she didn't mean to push. 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."
He continued: "I feel terrible that she's taking the heat for that because it really was just a heat-of-the-moment kind of circumstance. I don't think there was any harm intended. It was just a lot of emotion for me…You sometimes don't realize how much you can contain that stuff until the dam breaks, and then it's just a real outpouring."
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