October 28, 2019

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Sunday was a rare day. For only the 19th time ever, all four major sports leagues in North America — the MLB, NFL, NHL and NBA — were in action on the same day. President Donald Trump attended Sunday night’s Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C., although he wasn’t greeted kindly. (Here’s Christine Brennan’s USA Today column about Trump’s rough night.)

And yet sports took a backseat to some newsworthy, must-see political TV. Let’s start with a special “60 Minutes” interview.

O’Donnell shines in Joe Biden interview

The big interview of the weekend was Norah O’Donnell’s conversation on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” with Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. While “60 Minutes” always has been a needle-moving TV news show, it’s this kind of interview that reminds us just how influential the iconic show remains.

The Biden interview was outstanding, thanks to O’Donnell. She touched on all of the pertinent topics, including Russian interference into the election, Facebook, and his main Democratic opponents Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

But here were the most interesting parts:

Why has Barack Obama not endorsed him?

“I asked him not to,” Biden said. “He said, ‘OK.’ I think it’s better — I think he thinks it’s better for me. I have no doubt when I’m the nominee he’ll be out on the campaign trail for me.”

What would Biden say to Donald Trump after Trump has accused him and his son, Hunter, of being corrupt?

“Mr. President, release your tax returns,” Biden said. “Let’s see how straight you are, OK old buddy? I put out 21 years of mine. So show us your tax returns, bud — wh-what are you hiding? You want to deal with corruption? Start to act like it. Release your tax returns or shut up.”

And, would he be OK with his legacy if he doesn’t become president?

“I’m not worried about my legacy,” Biden said. “What I am worried about is the country. Four years of Donald Trump will be very hard to overcome, but we can. Eight years of Donald Trump will fundamentally change the nature of who we are as a country. And it’ll take a generation — a generation or more for us to get back on track.”

‘It’s my job as a newsman, sir’

President Donald Trump with cabinet members Saturday in the Situation Room of the White House. (Shealah Craighead/White House via AP)

Good work by “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace, who repeatedly asked Vice President Mike Pence about why President Donald Trump didn’t give Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi or Democrats advance notice that the United States was conducting a raid to take out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Wallace said, “the implication seeming to be that Pelosi or members of Congress would leak this.”

“Does the president not trust the Speaker of the House with sensitive national security information?” Wallace asked.

Pence dismissed the implication and said that Trump’s “total focus was on a successful mission” and on the safety of the troops.

Wallace kept pressing Pence, saying, “It’s my job as a newsman, sir, respectfully, why didn’t the president notify the Speaker of the House?”

Pence never answered that question.

Examining al-Baghdadi in the media

People look at a destroyed house near the village of Barisha, in the Idlib province, Sunday after an operation by the U.S. military that targeted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

Speaking of al-Baghdadi, one of the most interesting reads of the weekend was an extended Twitter thread by Rukmini Callimachi, who covers ISIS and al-Qaeda for The New York Times. Callimachi wrote how long, surprisingly, al-Baghdadi’s location was known and how it was learned in the first place. It also links the raid with the United States pulling out of troops out of Syria.

She also wrote that she has been working on Baghadi’s obit, which she co-wrote with Falih Hassan, for months. The thread and obit are well worth your time.

In the meantime, The Washington Post took heat for the headline on its original Baghdadi obit for calling him an “austere religious scholar.” In a statement to HuffPost, the Post’s vice president of communications, Kristine Coratti Kelly, said, “The headline should never have read that way and we changed it quickly.”

The original headline was criticized by many, including current and former White House press secretaries Stephanie Grisham and Sean Spicer.

The Post changed the headline to “extremist leader.”

Maddow goes off on NBC

Rachel Maddow. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Rachel Maddow unloaded on NBC Universal management during her MSNBC show Friday. It all goes back to Ronan Farrow’s reporting about sexual allegations against Harvey Weinstein that never aired on NBC, as well as whether or not it was slow to react to sexual assault allegations against former “Today” show co-host Matt Lauer.

Maddow, who interviewed Farrow on her show, said, “The allegations about the behavior of Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer are gut-wrenching at baseline, no matter who you are or what your connection is to this story. But accusations that people in positions of authority in this building may have been complicit in some way of shielding those guys from accountability, those accusations are very, very hard to stomach.”

She added, “The amount of consternation this has caused among the rank and file people who work here would be almost impossible for me to overstate.”

Maddow’s comments came as NBC put out a statement saying the network was releasing anyone who wanted to speak out from any non-disclosure agreements.

Certainly Maddow has the clout to say whatever she wants without repercussions. The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie wrote that Maddow’s comments earned praise among co-workers.

But what happens at NBC now?

One NBC staffer told CNN’s Brian Stelter, “People just want to move from this.” But another told Stelter that all this has taken a “serious toll on morale” and has left many employees doubting those in leadership positions at NBC News.

Variety’s Brian Steinberg writes that NBC and Farrow continue to go around in circles, and while we all watch, NBC just plows ahead with business as usual. Steinberg writes:

“For Farrow to win, his allegations would have to be so horrible that people actually stopped watching not just NBC News, but much more of NBCU-backed television. No ‘Voice,’ No ‘This is Us.’ No Maddow. No ‘Sunday Night Football.’ No Kardashians. And no broadcasts of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Simply put, that is unlikely to happen. No doubt, some people will not stop until it does.”

‘Frontline’ exposes fire warning failures

This Nov. 15, 2018, file photo, shows the remains of residences leveled by a wildfire in Paradise, California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the devastating California Camp Fire, PBS’s “Frontline” is reporting new details. On this Tuesday night’s show, “Frontline” will report that officials tried but failed to activate a free emergency notification system that might have warned more people of what turned out to be the deadliest wildfire in California history.

The episode, called “Fire in Paradise” investigates what went wrong in Butte County on Nov. 8, 2018, when 85 people died, many of them in their homes or cars as they tried to escape.

Is The Players’ Tribune for sale?

Bloomberg is reporting that The Players’ Tribune, the website started by former baseball star Derek Jeter, is exploring a sale. The Players’ Tribune did not comment. Stories for the site are written by athletes, with the help of ghostwriters. They tell the player experience.

Bloomberg, citing data from Inc.’s Alexa, said The Players’ Tribune traffic ranked 16,801 in the United States over the past 90 days. By comparison, the sports site The Athletic was 987.

Jeter is the CEO of the Miami Marlins baseball team.

Hot type

  • Morrissey took the stage in Los Angeles with a T-shirt that expressed exactly how he felt about England’s Guardian newspaper. Warning: It’s not favorable and it’s definitely R-rated.
  • Tweet of the day: After Sunday, only two men have won 82 PGA golf tournaments. And they are in this amazing photo.
  • “Saturday Night Live” often makes fun of President Trump. So why did Saturday night’s cold open go wrong? CNN’s Dean Obeidallah weighs in.
  • “Joe Biden’s Zombie Campaign” is from the New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi and getting plenty of pushback from Biden’s camp.

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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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