'60 Minutes' pioneer Mike Wallace dead at 93
Published Sunday, April 8, 2012 9:33PM EDT
Veteran CBS journalist Mike Wallace, renowned for his no-holds-barred interviewing style on "60 Minutes," has died at age 93.
Wallace died on Saturday night at a care facility in New Canaan, Conn., CBS host Bob Schieffer announced on "Face the Nation" the next morning.
Though he retired in 2006, Wallace continued working in the news business well into his 80s, after CBS waived a rule requiring its broadcasters to retire at age 65.
The seasoned newsman's later work included an interview with "Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian as well as an exclusive with embattled baseball star Roger Clemens. Wallace's pace only began to slow in 2008 after undergoing heart surgery.
Known for his hard-hitting exposes, Wallace joined "60 Minutes" when its staff was assembled in 1968. With the help of Wallace's tense confrontations with many of the world's leading public figures, the magazine-style news show slowly ascended the ratings chart.
In one of his more memorable interviews, Wallace questioned top Nixon aide John Ehrlichman in 1973, when the Watergate scandal was brewing. Wallace read out a list of alleged crimes such as money laundering, much to the apparent annoyance of his guest.
A trademark of Wallace's interviewing technique was the well-timed follow-up question, which was often couched in a softly-lobbed, "forgive me, but..."
"With an angelic smile, he can ask a question that would get anyone else smashed in the face," late CBS journalist Harry Reasoner once said of Wallace.
CBS News chairman Jeff Fager said Wallace knew that his reputation preceded him -- and "he loved it."
"He loved that part of Mike Wallace. He loved being Mike Wallace," Fager said Sunday. "He loved the fact that if he showed up for an interview, it made people nervous. ... He knew, and he knew that everybody else knew, that he was going to get to the truth. And that's what motivated him."
But Wallace was unapologetic about his style of questioning, even if it once brought famed singer Barbra Streisand to tears.
"The person I'm interviewing has not been subpoenaed. He's in charge of himself, and he lives with his subject matter every day. All I'm armed with is research," he once said.
Wallace was more than just a confrontational, "bombastic" journalist, Mike Cavender, executive director of the U.S. Radio Television Digital News Association, told CTV News Channel.
"The fact is, he was also a genteel, cultured individual and just a very nice man," Cavender said. "There were multiple facets to his personality."
Over the course of his six-decade television career, Wallace won 21 Emmy trophies, five Peabody awards, as well as five DuPont-Columbia journalism awards.
While he spent most of his career at CBS, he also appeared on a show called "Majority Rules" and as a game show host on "What's in a Word?" In 1964, Wallace transitioned into theatre in the Broadway play "Reclining Figure."
He first waded into the world of hard interviewing in the 1950s on "Night Beat," a show that featured sit-down interviews with movers and shakers such as Henry Kissinger.
Back then, Wallace said interviews were like "virtual minuets... Nobody dogged, nobody pushed." Years later, he'd bring that tenacity to CBS.
Wallace was famously sued by retired Gen. William C. Westmoreland over a 1982 CBS documentary, "The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception." The documentary accused Westmoreland and others of deliberately underestimating enemy troop strength during the Vietnam War.
The suit was eventually dropped after a long trial, but Wallace said the ordeal sent him into a serious depression and put him in a hospital for more than a week.
Born as Myron Wallace on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Mass, Wallace got his start as a radio news writer for the Chicago Sun and later as a reporter for Chicago TV station WMAQ.
Wallace was married four times. He married Mary Yates, the widow of his friend and colleague Ted Yates, in 1986. He is survived by Mary, as well as his son Chris, stepdaughter Pauline Dora and stepson Eames Yates.
With files from The Associated Press