On The Road With '60 Minutes'

<B>Don Hewitt</B> Comes Along For Some High Profile Interviews

Don Hewitt usually hasn't seen the stories until they're edited, and ready for him to screen. But over the years, there have been times when he'd actually gone out on the road with 60 Minutes.
Hewitt decided to come along with Correspondent Lesley Stahl to interview former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

"I'd worked up this really important, major interview with a world leader," says Stahl.

"We get there. He's in his tennis clothes. 'Nyet,' he says. 'Nyet. No interview. No interview.' Like that. I said, 'OK, I'm out of here. I'm walking away.' … Don is yanking me. He says, 'This could be great. We're gonna be on the tennis court.' I said, 'I don't wanna watch him play tennis.'"

But Hewitt wouldn't leave, says Stahl, and made her talk to Yeltsin, who refused to sit down for an interview.

"Every time between games, Boris huffs and puffs over to – and I do ask a couple of questions," says Stahl.

Yeltsin: When we graduated and got married, my wife and I…we just had two chairs. We didn't even have a table. So we had to do everything on the floor.

Stahl: On the floor, really?

Yeltsin: We had to make love on the floor. That's why we got girls.

"What a day," recalls Hewitt. "And she says, 'Outta here.'"

"Yes, I'm leaving," says Stahl, laughing. "And then, of course, it was one of the better pieces I've ever done. … 'Cause you got to see his personality. His real personality."
And then, there was that famous interview that Correspondent Steve Kroft had with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

"I think at some point you're going to have to be as candid as you know how and from there on you say, 'I said it on 60 Minutes. If you want to know what I think or say on this subject, go get a tape and run it again. I've said it all,'" Hewitt said to the Clintons.

"We were gonna do an hour at the most. But then, 40 minutes into it, the lights fell down. It was like an artillery round going off," says Kroft. "And then I realized that the lights had fallen off the wall and almost killed them."

Hewitt loves to go along on interviews, especially he's fascinated about the character that you're going be talking to – and especially if it's in the White House.

Wallace remembers one time when Hewitt went along to Tunis to interview Yasser Arafat.

"On my wall in my office, I've got pictures with Reagan, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter. I need one with you. May I,'" Hewitt recalls asking Arafat.

"Arafat says, 'Mike, come down. We'll have dinner together, leaving the executive producer upstairs,'" says Wallace.

"To have sandwiches with the gun soldier, with the guys with the Kalashnikov," adds Hewitt.

Correspondent Ed Bradley remembers one time when Hewitt flew with him to Damascus for another interview with Arafat during his first season on 60 Minutes. "We had no visa. I'm saying, 'How are we gonna get in there to interview him? We don't have a visa.'" recalls Bradley. "We get on a plane. We get to Damascus. We never get out of the airport. I mean, we spend 36 hours there. … And I said, never ever again."
Stahl remembers one last story – her second ever for 60 Minutes -- about women in their late 50's who were too early for Social Security, but were divorced and didn't have an income.

"They were living in their cars and sleeping on the streets of Bel Air. And I thought it was brilliant. And I'd never been to a screening, ever, and I'm swelling with pride. I'm so thrilled at this," recalls Stahl.

"And he [Hewitt] stands up and says, 'Who would care? Who in America is going to care?' … And I begged him to let me redo it and asked him for his help. And I finally redo it completely, and I say, 'Well, you're gonna have to run it.' He said, 'But I don't want you to be embarrassed. … and he ran it. And of course it was great. And he called and he said, 'I was wrong.' Now how many bosses ever do that?"

"I was wrong," admits Hewitt.

"Has the affection that we all feel for Don come through in all of this, I wonder," asks Kroft. "I hope."

"You know something, I was so pleasantly surprised because I didn't know there was that much," says Hewitt.

"I couldn't be more delighted. I get more than I deserve and I love it. One morning, I came in, and Daryl, who sits at the security desk when we come in, said to me, 'You know, Mr. Hewitt, when I grow up, I wanna be just like you.' And I said, 'That's funny, Daryl. So do I."

  • Rebecca Leung

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