"Oh c'mon!" That was just one of the phrases that Mike Wallace would use in an interview if he didn't think he was getting the whole story. "Over the years Mike developed his own short-hand vocabulary for dragging information out of people," says Steve Kroft of television's most celebrated interviewer. Mike died on April 7, 2012, at age 93. In this tribute, "Remembering Mike Wallace," "60 Minutes" correspondents recall the best moments from Mike's 800-plus pieces for the broadcast, and reminisce about both the man and the reporter.
The following is a script of "Mike Wallace" which aired on April 15, 2012. Steve Kroft, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl and Morley Safer are the correspondents. David Browning and Warren Lustig, producers.
Tonight, we remember Mike Wallace, one of the founders of this broadcast and its most public face. For 40 years, it was the sound of the stopwatch and Mike's voice that signaled the start of another edition of "60 Minutes." That voice has been silenced, but he was one of the true giants of television. His reporting style and interviewing technique influenced generations of journalists, and set the style and tone of this program. What better way to honor and remember Mike, than to look back at some of the highlights of his extraordinary career.
[Mike Wallace montage: He was doing what? With you. Why? Why? Why? Really? When you boil it down to low gravy...You demanded special treatment. You needed money. It's almost an embarrassment, sir, to hear this from you. What? What did they want you to do? What is it?]
I sat down with Mike in the spring of 2006 on the occasion of his semi-retirement from "60 Minutes." In the studio where the show is put together every week, we watched some notable people get put through the Mike Wallace meat-grinder.
[Mike Wallace: Wait, wait, wait. What are you saying?]
For instance: there he was with Vladimir Putin who, at the time was the president of Russia. But it's clear from this interview, that Mike was the one in charge.
[Mike Wallace: Corruption is everyplace in Russia. Agreed? Why? To get anything done: money.]
Steve Kroft: I've never seen the situation or seen an interview that you did not dominate, in terms of personality, in terms of force of personality.
Mike Wallace: That's very flattering, I guess, but, but...
Steve Kroft: How do you do it?
Mike Wallace: I'm nosy and insistent and not to be pushed aside.
Steve Kroft: And confident.
Mike Wallace: Confident in the material that I have and the questions that I have. Confident that when I ask a question, there's a reason for its being asked, that I have the specifics in research to warrant the asking of a q....it's not a question picked out of the air.
[Mike Wallace: You are the last major communist dictatorship in the world.]
Mike was always an equal opportunity offender. Here with Jiang Zemin, then president of China.
[Mike Wallace: Am I wrong?
Jiang Zemin: Of course. This is big mistake.
Mike Wallace: You are.
Jiang Zemin: Very frank speaking, I don't agree with your point I'm dictator.
Mike Wallace: I know you don't. I know that you don't. But there's an old American phrase about if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and so forth, it's a duck.]