Mike Wallace

Last updated

Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace National Press Club.jpg
Myron Leon Wallace

(1918-05-09)May 9, 1918
DiedApril 7, 2012(2012-04-07) (aged 93)
Education Brookline High School
Alma mater University of Michigan (A.B.)
OccupationJournalist, game show host, actor
Years active1939–2008
Notable credit(s)
60 Minutes (1968–2008)
Norma Kaphan
(m. 1940;div. 1948)

Buff Cobb
(m. 1949;div. 1955)

Lorraine Périgord
(m. 1955;div. 1986)

Mary Yates(m. 1986)
Children2, including Chris Wallace

Myron Leon "Mike" Wallace (May 9, 1918 – April 7, 2012) was an American journalist, game show host, actor, and media personality. He interviewed a wide range of prominent newsmakers during his seven-decade career. He was one of the original correspondents for CBS' 60 Minutes , which debuted in 1968. Wallace retired as a regular full-time correspondent in 2006, but still appeared occasionally on the series until 2008.

CBS is an American English language commercial broadcast television and radio network that is a flagship property of CBS Corporation. The company is headquartered at the CBS Building in New York City with major production facilities and operations in New York City and Los Angeles.

<i>60 Minutes</i> American television newsmagazine program

60 Minutes is an American news magazine and television program broadcast on the CBS television network. Debuting in 1968, the program was created by Don Hewitt, who chose to set it apart from other news programs by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation. In 2002, 60 Minutes was ranked at No. 6 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked #24 on TV Guide's 60 Best Series of All Time. The New York Times has called it "one of the most esteemed news magazines on American television".


He interviewed many politicians, celebrities, and academics, such as Pearl S. Buck, Deng Xiaoping, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Jiang Zemin, Ruhollah Khomeini, Kurt Waldheim, Frank Lloyd Wright, Yasser Arafat, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Manuel Noriega, John Nash, Gordon B. Hinckley, Vladimir Putin, Maria Callas, Barbra Streisand, Salvador Dalí, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Ayn Rand. [1]

Pearl S. Buck American writer

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck was an American writer and novelist. As the daughter of missionaries, Buck spent most of her life before 1934 in Zhenjiang, China. Her novel The Good Earth was the best-selling fiction book in the United States in 1931 and 1932 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932. In 1938, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces". She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Deng Xiaoping Chinese politician, Paramount leader of China

Deng Xiaoping was a Chinese politician who was the paramount leader of the People's Republic of China from 1978 until his retirement in 1992. After Chairman Mao Zedong's death in 1976, Deng led China through far-reaching market-economy reforms.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi the last shah of Iran

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also known as Mohammad Reza Shah, was the last Shah of Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979. Mohammad Reza Shah took the title Shahanshah on 26 October 1967. He was the second and last monarch of the House of Pahlavi. Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi held several other titles, including that of Aryamehr and Bozorg Arteshtaran ("Commander-in-Chief"). His dream of what he referred to as a "Great Civilisation" in Iran led to a rapid industrial and military modernisation, as well as economic and social reforms.

Early life

Wallace, whose family's surname was originally Wallik, [2] was born on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Massachusetts, [2] to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, [2] [3] He identified as a Jew throughout his life. His father was a grocer and insurance broker. [4] Wallace attended Brookline High School, graduating in 1935. [5] He graduated from the University of Michigan four years later with a Bachelor of Arts. While a college student he was a reporter for the Michigan Daily and belonged to the Alpha Gamma Chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity. [6]

Brookline, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Brookline is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, in the United States, and is a part of Greater Boston. Brookline borders six of Boston's neighborhoods: Brighton, Allston, Fenway–Kenmore, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, and West Roxbury. The city of Newton lies to the west of Brookline.

Brookline High School

Brookline High School is a four-year public high school in the town of Brookline, Massachusetts.

University of Michigan Public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

The University of Michigan, often simply referred to as Michigan, is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The university is Michigan's oldest; it was founded in 1817 in Detroit, as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the territory became a state. The school was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet spread out over a Central Campus and North Campus, two regional campuses in Flint and Dearborn, and a Center in Detroit. The university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.



Wallace appeared as a guest on the popular radio quiz show Information Please on February 7, 1939, when he was in his last year at the University of Michigan. Wallace spent his first summer after graduation working on-air at Interlochen Center for the Arts. [7] His first radio job was as newscaster and continuity writer for WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This lasted until 1940, when he moved to WXYZ Radio in Detroit, Michigan, as an announcer. He then became a freelance radio worker in Chicago, Illinois.

Information Please was an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938 to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called "information" but is now called "directory assistance".

Interlochen Center for the Arts non-profit organisation in the USA

Interlochen Center for the Arts is a tax exempt, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, operating an arts education institution in northwest Michigan. The center is situated on a 1,200-acre (490 ha) campus in Interlochen, Michigan, roughly 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Traverse City. Interlochen draws young people from around the world to study music, theater, dance, visual arts, creative writing, motion picture arts, and comparative arts. Interlochen Center for the Arts is the umbrella organization for Interlochen Arts Camp, Interlochen Arts Academy boarding high school, Interlochen Public Radio, and the "Interlochen Presents" performing arts series. The Interlochen College of Creative Arts is an affiliated but separate non-profit corporation.

Grand Rapids, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in Michigan and the largest city in West Michigan. It is on the Grand River about 30 miles (48 km) east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 1,005,648, and the combined statistical area of Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland had a population of 1,321,557. Grand Rapids is the county seat of Kent County.

Wallace enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943 and during World War II served as a communications officer on the USS Anthedon, a submarine tender. He saw no combat but traveled to Hawaii, Australia, and Subic Bay in the Philippines, then patrolling the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea and south of Japan. After being discharged in 1946, Wallace returned to Chicago.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. With the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Submarine tender Type of ship that supplies and supports submarines

A submarine tender is a type of depot ship that supplies and supports submarines.

Wallace announced for the radio shows Curtain Time , Ned Jordan:Secret Agent, Sky King , The Green Hornet , [8] Curtain Time, [8] and The Spike Jones Show . [8] It is sometimes reported[ by whom? ] Wallace announced for The Lone Ranger , but Wallace said he never did. [9] From 1946 through 1948 he portrayed the title character on The Crime Files of Flamond, on WGN and in syndication.

For the record album of the same name, see Curtain Time.

<i>Sky King</i> television series

Sky King was an American radio and television series. Its lead character was Arizona rancher and aircraft pilot Schuyler "Sky" King. The series may have been based on a true-life personality of the 1930s, Jack Cones, known as the "Flying Constable" of Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County, California, although this notion is unverified.

The Crime Files of Flamond was a radio crime drama in the United States. From 1946 to 1948 it was broadcast on WGN and syndicated to other stations by transcriptions. From January 7, 1953, to July 1, 1953, it was carried on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Mutual revived the program On April 4, 1956, and ran it until February 27, 1957.

Wallace announced wrestling in Chicago in the late 1940s and early 1950s, sponsored by Tavern Pale beer.

In the late 1940s, Wallace was a staff announcer for the CBS radio network. He had displayed his comic skills when he appeared opposite Spike Jones in dialogue routines. He was also the voice of Elgin-American in their commercials on Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life . As "Myron Wallace", he portrayed New York City detective Lou Kagel on the short-lived radio drama series "Crime on the Waterfront".


In 1949, Wallace began to move to the new medium of television. In that year, he starred under the name Myron Wallace in a short-lived police drama, Stand By for Crime . [10]

Wallace hosted a number of game shows in the 1950s, including The Big Surprise , Who's the Boss? and Who Pays?. Early in his career Wallace was not known primarily as a news broadcaster. It was not uncommon during that period for newscasters (the term then used) to announce, do commercials and host game shows; Douglas Edwards, John Daly, John Cameron Swayze and Walter Cronkite hosted game shows as well. Wallace also hosted the pilot episode for Nothing but the Truth, which was helmed by Bud Collyer when it aired under the title To Tell the Truth . Wallace occasionally served as a panelist on To Tell the Truth in the 1950s. He also did commercials for a variety of products, including Procter & Gamble's Fluffo brand shortening.

Publicity photo for the television program Mike Wallace Interviews, 1957 Mike Wallace Interviews 1957.JPG
Publicity photo for the television program Mike Wallace Interviews, 1957

Wallace also hosted two late-night interview programs, Night Beat (broadcast in New York City during 1955–1957, only on DuMont's WABD) and The Mike Wallace Interview on ABC in 1957–1958. See also Profiles in Courage , section: Authorship controversy.

In 1959, Louis Lomax told Wallace about the Nation of Islam. Lomax and Wallace produced a five-part documentary about the organization, The Hate That Hate Produced , which aired during the week of July 13, 1959. The program was the first time most white people heard about the Nation, its leader, Elijah Muhammad, and its charismatic spokesman, Malcolm X. [11]

By the early 1960s, Wallace's primary income came from commercials for Parliament cigarettes, touting their "man's mildness" (he had a contract with Philip Morris to pitch their cigarettes as a result of their original sponsorship of The Mike Wallace Interview). Between June 1961 and June 1962 he hosted a New York–based nightly interview program for Westinghouse Broadcasting [12] called PM East for one hour; it was paired with PM West , 30 minutes, hosted by San Francisco Chronicle television critic Terrence O'Flaherty. Westinghouse syndicated the series to television stations it owned and to a few other cities. People in southern and southwestern states were unable to watch it.

A frequent guest on the PM East segment was Barbra Streisand. Only the audio of some of her conversations with Wallace survives. [12] Westinghouse wiped the videotapes. Also in the early 1960s, Wallace was the host of the David Wolper–produced Biography series.

After his elder son's death in 1962, Wallace decided to get back into news and hosted an early version of CBS Morning News from 1963 through 1966. In 1964 he interviewed Malcolm X, who, half-jokingly, commented "I probably am a dead man already." [13] The black leader was assassinated a few months later in February 1965.

In 1967, Wallace anchored the documentary CBS Reports: The Homosexuals . "The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous", Wallace said in the piece. "He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one-chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city—the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship." [14] In later years, Wallace came to regret his participation in the episode. "I should have known better," he said in 1992. [15] Speaking in 1996, Wallace stated, "That is—God help us—what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that's what we heard from doctors—that's what [psychiatrist Charles] Socarides told us, it was a matter of shame." [15]

60 Minutes

Wallace and Harry Reasoner on the 60 Minutes premiere, 1968. 60 minutes 1968.JPG
Wallace and Harry Reasoner on the 60 Minutes premiere, 1968.

His career as the lead reporter on 60 Minutes led to some run-ins with the people interviewed—and claims of misconduct by female colleagues. While interviewing Louis Farrakhan, Wallace alleged that Nigeria was the most corrupt country in the world. Farrakhan immediately shot back that Americans were in no moral position to judge, declaring "Has Nigeria dropped an atomic bomb that killed people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Have they killed off millions of Native Americans?" "Can you think of a more corrupt country?" asked Wallace. "I'm living in one," said Farrakhan. [16]

Wallace interviewed General William Westmoreland for the CBS special The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception , aired January 23, 1982. [17] Westmoreland then sued Wallace and CBS for libel. The trial ended in February 1985 when the case was settled out of court just before it would have gone to the jury. Each side agreed to pay its own costs and attorney's fees and CBS issued a clarification of its intent with respect to the original story.

In 1981, Wallace was forced to apologize for a racial slur he had made about blacks and Hispanics. During a break while preparing a 60 Minutes report on a bank that had been accused of duping low-income Californians, Wallace was caught on tape joking that "You bet your ass [the contracts are] hard to read" if you're reading them over watermelon or tacos. [18] [19]

Attention was re-drawn to that incident several years later when protests were raised against Wallace's being selected to give a university commencement address at the same ceremony during which Nelson Mandela was being awarded an honorary doctorate in absentia for his fight against racism. Wallace initially called the protestors' complaint "absolute foolishness". [20] However, he subsequently apologized for his earlier remark, and added that when he had been a student decades earlier on the same university campus, "though it had never really caused me any serious difficulty here ... I was keenly aware of being Jewish, and quick to detect slights, real or imagined.... We Jews felt a kind of kinship [with blacks]", but "Lord knows, we weren't riding the same slave ship." [21]

Wallace's reputation has been retrospectively affected by his admission that he had harassed female colleagues at 60 Minutes over many years. "Back in the 1970s and ’80s, 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace was known for putting his hand on the backs of his female CBS News co-workers and unsnapping the clasps on their bras. 'It wasn't a secret. I have done that', Wallace told Rolling Stone magazine in 1991." [22] In 2018, claims of sexual misconduct at 60 Minutes led to the resignation of executive producer Jeff Fager, who had overseen the news show for 36 years. He resigned several months after a July 27 story by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. [23] Not only did Farrow's story accuse Fager of ignoring and enabling misconduct by several high-ranking male producers at 60 Minutes, but Farrow also cited former employees who accused Fager himself of misconduct. [24]

Correspondent emeritus

On March 14, 2006, Wallace announced his retirement from 60 Minutes after 37 years with the program. He continued working for CBS News as a "Correspondent Emeritus", albeit at a reduced pace. [25] In August 2006, Wallace interviewed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. [26] Wallace's last CBS interview was with retired baseball star Roger Clemens in January 2008 on 60 Minutes. [27] Wallace's previously vigorous health (Morley Safer described him in 2006 as "having the energy of a man half his age") began to fail and in June 2008 his son Chris said that his father would not be returning to television. [28]

Wallace expressed regret with regard to the one big interview he was never able to secure: First Lady Pat Nixon. [29]

Personal life

Wallace in 2007 Mike Wallace (cropped).jpg
Wallace in 2007

Wallace had two children with his first wife, Norma Kaphan. [30] Wallace's younger son, Chris, is also a journalist. His elder son, Peter, died at age 19 in a mountain-climbing accident in Greece in 1962. [31]

From 1949 to 1954, Wallace was married to Patrizia "Buff" Cobb, an actress and step-daughter to Gladys Swarthout. The two of them hosted the "Mike and Buff Show" on CBS Television in the early 50's. They also hosted "All Around Town" in 1951 and 1952. [32]

For many years, Wallace unknowingly suffered from depression. In an article he wrote for Guideposts , Wallace related, "I'd had days when I felt blue and it took more of an effort than usual to get through the things I had to do." [33] It worsened in 1984 after General Westmoreland filed a $120 million libel lawsuit against Wallace and CBS over statements they made in the documentary The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception (1982). Westmoreland claimed the documentary made him appear as if he manipulated intelligence. The lawsuit, Westmoreland v. CBS , was later dropped after CBS issued a statement explaining they never intended to portray the general as disloyal or unpatriotic. During the proceedings, Wallace was hospitalized with what was diagnosed as exhaustion. His wife Mary forced him to go to a doctor, who diagnosed Wallace with clinical depression. He was prescribed an antidepressant and underwent psychotherapy. Out of a belief that it would be perceived as weakness, Wallace kept his depression a secret until he revealed it in an interview with Bob Costas on Costas' late-night talk show, Later . [33] In a later interview with colleague Morley Safer, he admitted having attempted suicide circa 1986. [34]

Wallace received a pacemaker more than 20 years before his death, and underwent triple bypass surgery in January 2008. [2] He lived in a care facility the last several years of his life. [2] In 2011, CNN host Larry King visited him and reported that he was in good spirits, but his physical condition was noticeably declining.

Wallace considered himself a political moderate. He was friends with Nancy Reagan and her family for over 75 years. [35] Nixon wanted him for his press secretary. Fox News said, "He didn't fit the stereotype of the Eastern liberal journalist." Interviewed by his son on Fox News Sunday, he was asked if he understood why people feel a disaffection from the mainstream media. "They think they're wide-eyed commies; liberals," Mike replied, a notion he dismissed as "damned foolishness". [36]


Wallace died at his residence in New Canaan, Connecticut, from natural causes, on April 7, 2012, a month and two days before his 94th birthday. [2] [37] The night after his death, Morley Safer announced his death on 60 Minutes. On April 15, 2012, a full episode of 60 Minutes aired which was dedicated to remembering his life. [38] [39] [40]


In 1989, Wallace was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Pennsylvania. [41] Wallace's professional honors included 21 Emmy Awards, [2] among them a report just weeks before the September 11 attacks for an investigation on the former Soviet Union's smallpox program and concerns about terrorism. He also won three Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards, a Robert E. Sherwood Award, a Distinguished Achievement Award from the University of Southern California School of Journalism and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the international broadcast category. In September 2003, Wallace received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy, his 20th.[ citation needed ] Most recently, on October 13, 2007, Wallace was awarded the University of Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.

Fictional portrayals

Wallace was played by actor Christopher Plummer in the 1999 feature film, The Insider . The screenplay was based on the Vanity Fair article, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" by Marie Brenner, which was about Wallace caving in to corporate pressure to kill a story about Jeffrey Wigand, a whistle-blower trying to expose Brown & Williamson's dangerous business practices. Wallace, for his part, disliked his on-screen portrayal and maintained he was in fact very eager to have Wigand's story aired in full.

Wallace was played by actor Stephen Rowe in the stage version of Frost/Nixon , but he was omitted from the screenplay of the 2008 film adaptation and thus the movie itself. In the 1999 American broadcast television movie, Hugh Hefner: Unauthorized , Wallace is portrayed by Mark Harelik. In the film A Face in the Crowd (1957), Wallace portrayed himself.



See also

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