Each week, "60 Minutes" viewers could expect the master interviewer to ask the questions they wanted answered by the world's leaders and headliners. Wallace did not disappoint them, often revealing more than the public ever hoped to see. He got the stoicduring the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 when he asked him what he thought about being called "a lunatic" by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The Ayatollah answered by correctly predicting that Sadat would be assassinated.
The same year, Johnny Carson called Wallace "cruel" during an interview after Wallace asked, "It takes one to know one?" when the late-night star took pity on an alcoholic newsmaker. Her fans protested when Wallace brought Barbra Streisand to the emotional edge in 1991 by revealing that her own mother had told him that Barbara "was too busy to get close to anyone."
He never softened, even in his 80s. In a 2001 interview about his Broadway mega hit "The Producers," Mel Brooks began an angry rant against anti-Semitism prompted by Wallace's suggestion that his claims of bias were exaggerated. In 2003, he wrung tears out of one of the most feared defensive players in NFL history when he read lines to Lawrence Taylor spoken by Taylor's son.
Wallace was also known for pioneering the "ambush" interview, presenting his unsuspecting interviewee with evidence of malfeasance - often obtained by hidden camera - then capturing the stunned reaction. Two of the more famous exposes in this genre that used hidden cameras were investigations of a phony cancer clinic and a laboratory offering Medicaid kickbacks to doctors. Presenting interviewees with their own misdeeds became a "60 Minutes" staple, but the hidden camera and ambush were later shunned as they were widely imitated, and even Wallace admitted their use was to "create heat, rather than light."
Sometimes the feisty reporter was the story, getting arrested in Chicago in 1968 on the floor of the Democratic Convention, and making headlines 36 years later, at the age of 86, when words with a New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission officer resulted in an arrest for disorderly conduct.
Wallace drew attention also for taking on controversial subjects. From legal prostitution at Las Vegas' Mustang Ranch, to child pornography to gay police officers - a 1992 report that won him an Emmy - no subject was taboo.
No story generated more controversy than Wallace's 1998 interview with euthanasia practitioner Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Wallace and "60 Minutes" took heat for broadcasting Kevorkian's own tape showing him lethally injecting a man suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The death of Thomas Youk broadcast on "60 Minutes" made headlines and the editorial pages, generating discussion about euthanasia for weeks. The tape also served as evidence to convict Kevorkian of murder.
In another controversy, Wallace's, the highest-ranking tobacco executive to turn whistle-blower, was held back for fear of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit that could have bankrupted CBS. The interview, in which Wigand revealed tobacco executives knew and covered up the fact that tobacco caused disease, was eventually broadcast on "60 Minutes" in February 1996. The incident became the subject of the film, "The Insider" (in which Wallace was played by Christopher Plummer).
Wallace was also at the center of one of the biggest libel suits ever, threatening his journalistic integrity and ultimately plunging him into a clinical depression. Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded the U.S. military in Vietnam, sued CBS and Wallace for a 1982 "CBS Reports" documentary alleging the general had deceived the American people by undercounting the enemy in Vietnam. The $120 million suit against "The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception," went to trial in 1984 and lasted months before Westmoreland withdrew it just before Wallace was to testify in early 1985. ,/P>
The grueling test became a defining moment in Wallace's life. Medication and therapy helped him overcome his initial depression and a later relapse, and he became a heroic example to fellow sufferers, speaking publicly for the rest of his life to de-stigmatize the disorder. He revealed years later to colleague Morley Safer in a "60 Minutes" special on his life that he had attempted suicide during the lawsuit crisis.