Mike Wallace, the last lion of American TV news whose hard-charging style defined “60 Minutes” over most of its history, has died. He was 93.
Wallace, who had lived in a New Canaan, Conn. nursing home the past several years, had been suffering from dementia. For a number of years, beginning in 1968 when “60 Minutes” launched, Wallace was arguably the best-known news figure on television, after Walter Cronkite.
“It is with tremendous sadness that we mark the passing of Mike Wallace. His extraordinary contribution as a broadcaster is immeasurable and he has been a force within the television industry throughout its existence. His loss will be felt by all of us at CBS,” said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO, CBS Corporation.
“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.’ There simply hasn’t been another broadcast journalist with that much talent. It almost didn’t matter what stories he was covering, you just wanted to hear what he would ask next. Around CBS he was the same infectious, funny and ferocious person as he was on TV. We loved him and we will miss him very much,” said Jeff Fager, chairman CBSNews and executive producer of “60 Minutes.”
Lowell Bergman, the distinguished former “60 Minutes” producer so long associated with Wallace – with he whom he would share so many triumphs over the years before their breach over the tobacco-whistleblower story in the mid-90s – said in a phone interview, “You have to understand that I saw Mike Wallace on TV in 1957 when I was eleven years, and then going to work for him, with him and hearing his voice doing the narration of a piece I was doing just completely changed the way I looked at myself, my career and my future, and all of us in the business. Long back before I ever worked with him, he created the tough broadcast interview. No one else had ever done it. And all the techniques we use in contstructing questions for whethter it’s a documentary or a magazine piece or anything – that was basically invented by him. He had an understanding which not all of us on camera have