CBS News icon Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” fame, the tough interviewer who may not have invented confrontational journalism but certainly perfected it, died Saturday night. He was 93 and was surrounded by family members at the Waveny Care Center in New Canaan, Conn., where he had lived recently.
Jeff Fager, chairman CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes” said, “All of us at CBS News and particularly at ’60 Minutes’ owe so much to Mike. Without him and his iconic style, there probably wouldn’t be a ’60 Minutes.’”
The AP’s David Bauder wrote that the “60 Minutes” journalist’s reputation as a pitiless inquisitor was so fearsome that the words “Mike Wallace is here to see you” were the most dreaded words in the English language; capable of reducing an interview subject to a shaking, sweating mess.
Myron Leon “Mike” Wallace (b. May 9, 1918) whose family’s surname was originally Wallechinsky, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Frank and Zina (Sharfman) Wallace. His father was a grocer and an insurance broker.
During the course of his career, Wallace interviewed Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During a 1989 interview with Arafat, Wallace allowed him to spout his anti-Israel views without questioning them. When he asked Arafat if he had renounced “military operations” inside Israel, Arafat responded “Any people who are facing occupation or oppression have the right to use all methods.” Wallace did not probe this with a follow-up question, CAMERA pointed out in a 2006 report called “Mike Wallace’s Middle East Problem.”
He interviewed Abba Eban, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, in 1958.