Insensitive interview with Sochi medal winner Bode Miller angers viewers

Overcome with emotion: Bode Miller is interviewed by NBC. Photo: NBC screen shot Emotional … US skier Bode Miller reacts to questions about his brother after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

“Today was one of the most emotional days of my life.”: Bode Miller. Photo: NBC screen shot

Difficult line of questions … US skier Bode Miller is comforted by his wife Morgan Beck after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

Emotional … US skier Bode Miller breaks down during an NBC interview after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

Emotional … US skier Bode Miller breaks down during an NBC interview after the Men’s Alpine Skiing Super-G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre.

The US television network NBC has provoked a storm of criticism after a reporter covering the Sochi Olympics repeatedly questioned an athlete about his dead brother until he broke down in tears on air.

Reporter Christin Cooper was interviewing skier Bode Miller after he won the bronze medal in the Super-G. With the win, Miller made history as the oldest alpine skiing medalist.

But Cooper was more interested in talking to Miller about his brother Chelone who died last year after a seizure in California.

“Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?” she asked him.

Miller replied: “A lot, obviously. A long struggle coming in here. And just a tough year.”

Miller was visibly emotional at that point, but Cooper pressed on with: “I know you wanted to be here with Chilly [Chelone Miller] experiencing these games, how much does it mean to you to come up with a great performance for him? And was it for him?”

Miller’s reply, while wiping away tears: “I mean, I don’t know if it’s really for him. But I wanted to come here and … I don’t know, I guess make myself proud, but …”

Cooper then asked a third question, clearly referring again to Miller’s brother: “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.

Miller then doubles over, breaking down in tears. His wife, professional beach volleyball player Morgan Beck, then stepped in to comfort him.

The camera stayed on the couple for more than a minute.

Miller later tweeted: “Today was one of the most emotional days of my life. I miss my brother.”

Reaction to the interview in the US has been almost overwhelmingly negative, with NBC and Cooper taking enormous heat.

It also provoked an avalanche of criticism on the social media platform Twitter.

NBC has been criticised for allowing the footage to air, including the camera lingering on Miller as he wept, despite having considerable time to make cuts due to the time delay in NBC’s coverage the Sochi games.

In an interview on the Today show, Miller later told Matt Lauer he had no quarrel with Cooper.

“I’ve known Christin a long time. 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 sort of realised, it was too late. I don’t blame her at all.

“It was just a lot of emotion for me. It’s been a lot over the the last year. You sometimes don’t realise how much you contain that stuff until the dam breaks and then it’s just a real outpouring.”

NBC also put out a statement saying it was the network’s “judgement that [Miller’s] answers [to Cooper’s questions] were a necessary part of the story.

“Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal,” the statement said.

“We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”

NBC has also drawn criticism for an interview in which host Meredith Viera questioned 31-year-old women’s skeleton silver medal winner Noelle Pikus-Pace about a miscarriage she suffered several years ago.

NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell today said it was the network’s job to tell the personal stories of athletes.

“At the Olympics, particularly because people don’t know these athletes, they don’t know their stories, they don’t know the sports, it’s even a bigger responsibility to be able to share those to get viewers to connect with these athletes and their stories and their sports,” he said. “You’d be irresponsible not to tell that part of the story. That’s what we do,” he said, referring to the emphasis on personal stories and, in particular, the issue the death of Miller’s brother or Pikus-Pace’s miscarriage.

“We have to make a lot of decisions every day in our coverage, and we made that one, and we’re fine with it, and the interview subject was fine with it, so I think that should be the end of it,” Bell said.