November 18, 2019

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Good morning. This should be another packed week of impeachment news with testimony scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. But there’s another story that deserves your attention this week, and that’s where I start today.

Heartbreaking but important reporting

These days, it’s easy to get caught up in the news of the impeachment inquiry and ignore everything else. But starting today, NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden delivers an extensive, critical and heartbreaking investigative report on how the mineral mica is mined. At the center is the exploitation of children, some as young as 3, who are mining this material that’s found in a wide range of products including cars, planes and cell phones, as well as paint and makeup.

McFadden, the network’s senior legal and investigative correspondent, traveled to Madagascar to show how mothers and their young children spend days mining mica, and then their nights protecting it.

In an email, McFadden told me just how emotionally difficult this story was to report.

“I was sitting in the darkened edit room at NBC this week looking at the dirty faces of tiny children, deep in a mica pit, digging so they could eat,” McFadden said. “Every time they look at the camera and smile I feel my heart stutter. I knew going in I was there to document their pain – tiny children working long days in dangerous circumstances to fuel the world’s dependence on mica. But it’s their joy, their laughter, that gets me every time. Children with so little filled with so much hope. I keep thinking about the promises we made to them: We would not forget them. That we would try to help. I want others to see what I see in them: kids filled with promise, like our own. So you get it when I say, the pressure to get this story right is huge.”

It was also a difficult story to do from a physical standpoint, as well, especially because McFadden was working on a broken ankle.

“The area is remote, rarely seen by outsiders,” McFadden said. “There are designated ‘red’ or ‘no-go’ zones by some aid groups because of local violence. We slept in very primitive shelters with no running water.”

McFadden had to put the put the physical pain of working in a cast aside, as well as keeping her emotions in check.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘If you don’t feel anything about what you are seeing you are not doing your job; if you feel too much you can’t do your job,’” McFadden told me.

The first piece of McFadden’s project ran on the “Today” show this morning. It was nine minutes — an uncommonly long feature for a morning show. (You can watch it here.) A report also will run on tonight’s “NBC Nightly News.” Watch this report, especially because all of us use products that contain mica.

Trump taunts Chris Wallace on Twitter

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. (Joe Raedle/Pool via AP)

President Donald Trump took aim at Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sunday, calling him “nasty & obnoxious” in a tweet and saying Wallace “will never be his father, Mike!” Trump was commenting about Wallace’s interview with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise. Trump added, “This kind of dumb and unfair interview would never have happened in the @FoxNews past.”

During the Sunday interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Wallace pressed Scalise on several key elements of the telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that has led to the impeachment inquiry. Wallace also said Scalise had “very badly” mischaracterized witnesses’ positions during impeachment hearing testimony last week.

It also should be noted that last week, Wallace said he found the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry to be credible. Perhaps that, too, has Wallace on Trump’s bad side.

Conservative radio host fired — over Trump?

Was a Denver radio host fired because he was critical of Trump? Craig Silverman, who hosted a weekly show on conservative 710 KNUS, said he was fired mid-show Saturday and he thinks it’s because of his comments about the impeachment inquiry.

“I heard my fellow hosts say, it’s boring. It’s a sham. Bad for the country. A hoax,” he told The Washington Post. “So many of these talk show hosts are doing the total bidding of Donald Trump. And I want to offer my contrary voice.”

In a tweet after he was let go, Silverman said:

“I cannot and will not toe strict Trump party line. I call things as I see them. I see corruption and blatant dishonesty by President and his cronies.”

Appearing on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, Silverman said that the station, owned by the conservative Salem Media Group, didn’t like his views on Trump. His show was cut off in the middle of a segment.

“I was frustrated that we couldn’t talk about the facts of the impeachment case and it all came to a head as I was excoriating Donald Trump on my show yesterday,” Silverman told “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter.

KNUS vice president and general manager Brian Taylor told CNN that Silverman’s show was taken off the air because Silverman mentioned a recent appearance on a competing station that he was not supposed to appear on even though he is considered an “independent contractor.”

Train wreck of an interview

Britain’s Prince Andrew in 2011. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The most fascinating interview of the weekend actually took place in the United Kingdom as the BBC’s Emily Maitlis grilled Prince Andrew about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as well as allegations that Prince Andrew had sexual relations with one of Epstein’s victims. Prince Andrew denied accusations by Virginia Roberts Giuffre that he had sex with her when she was 17.

When he was asked if he regretted his relationship with Epstein, Prince Andrew said, “Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes.”

Maitlis said, “Unbecoming? He was a sex offender.”

Prince Andrew said, “Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m being polite. I mean, in the sense that he was a sex offender.”

That was just one part of an interview that could not have gone much worse for Prince Andrew. Charlie Proctor, the editor of the Royal Central website, tweeted: “I expected a train wreck. That was a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad.”

Reporting from London, The New York Times’ Mark Landler has a good recap of how the interview played in England.

Swing and a hit for NBC?

You might be able to break down the 2020 presidential election by digging deep on five states. And you might be able to break down those states by digging deep on five counties in those states.

So NBC News — led by “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and political reporters Vaughn Hillyard and Dasha Burns — will regularly report from those swing counties in those swing states in a project called “County to County.”

Those counties are Milwaukee (Wisconsin), Kent (Michigan), Beaver (Pennsylvania), Miami-Dade (Florida) and Maricopa (Arizona).

The stories will appear on NBC News, MSNBC and NBC News NOW.

Tweet of the weekend

Dan Rather. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

This sent out Sunday night by veteran newsman Dan Rather:

“A weekend winds down, respite spent with family and friends. But a churning news cycle crashes towards another week of the unpredictable and unprecedented. I feel the graveness of this moment but also comfort having you here to help mark the journey together. Onward, and Steady.”

Hot type

  • The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley, Peter Eavis and Ben Casselman with “How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0.” In response, the chief executive of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, has challenged Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger and the business editor to a public debate.
  • Another blockbuster report from The New York Times as Rachel Abrams and John Koblin write about how two female writers have quit Patricia Heaton’s CBS show involving claims of sexual harassment.
  • Longtime Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Bill Lyon died over the weekend from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81. The Inquirer remembers him with this obit.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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