This morning at 7:30 we aired a jailhouse interview that Matt had with Eric McClean, accused of murdering eighteen-year-old Sean Powell who was a student of his wife's who was having an affair with her. As I've mentioned before, the mood of the control room can be very telling in terms of compelling stories. The control room got very quiet during this interview as we all watched Eric break down in front of Matt about the regrets he has for the crime he committed. As Matt mentioned coming out of the interview, he is a man who was struggling to avoid divorce by staying with his wife after learning of the affair, and now his actions have guaranteed that his family is shattered forever. WATCH VIDEO
Coming out of the interview, Matt did remind us all that the reason Eric granted the interview was in the hopes of lessening the charge of first degree murder against him before heading into a trial situation. It is always important to remember the context and circumstances surrounding any interview. Many people were commenting throughout the interview that it's hard not to feel some compassion for this man, and even Matt admitted during the interview that it was hard to not feel some sympathy for Eric. Eric is a man, however, who shattered not only his family's lives but the family of the victim's lives as well.
The spot ended and Phil Griffin, Senior Vice President of NBC News and executive in charge of TODAY, said simply, "That was powerful." We had to throw right from the spot to Al for weather which was a little challenging - that's one of the hardest parts of having a show that spans so many topics and tones: transitioning from an intense, emotional interview to discuss the weather, or many of our other topics that are important to viewers but take a lighter tone.
I have to say, it is interesting to think about feeling compassion for a man who admitted to Matt point-blank that yes, he did shoot a young student. Clearly his violent reaction was wrong, there is no gray zone about that decision, but is he seen in a completely evil light? Was he crying for show, or is he genuinely remorseful? Does it matter if he's remorseful after committing murder? What are your thoughts?