As "60 Minutes" enters its 52nd season later this month, viewers will notice a familiar face and voice missing from the broadcast. After reporting nearly 500 stories for "60 Minutes," veteran correspondent Steve Kroft has retired.
"From the moment Steve Kroft arrived at CBS News in 1980, he has been shot out of a cannon, and wherever he landed, his stories broke news, had depth, and a strong sense of humanity," said Susan Zirinsky, CBS News president and senior executive producer. "From Central America to a tour of duty in London, and back to New York, his destiny was clear. Kroft's investigative instincts and ability to unravel the most complex stories made him a perfect fit for the '60 Minutes' team."
During his 30 years at "60 Minutes," Kroft distinguished himself through the quality of his writing, the depth of his reporting, and the intensity of his interviews. And his talents have not gone unrecognized. He has won two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Batons, five Peabody Awards and 12 Emmy awards. He has received the Investigative Editors and Reporters Award (IRE), the George Polk and JFK Journalism Awards. He's also been honored with all of the major industry lifetime achievement awards: the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, the Paul White Award from the RTDNA and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy.
Kroft reminisces with his longtime colleague Lesley Stahl about some of the most memorable stories he has told on "60 Minutes." Here are some of those reports.
In late 2011, Kroft reported on elected officials using inside information to pad their own pockets. The benefits of being in Congress, Kroft reported, included "power, prestige, and the opportunity to become a Washington insider with access to information and connections that no one else has, in an environment of privilege where rules that govern the rest of the country, don't always apply to them."
Kroft's story on insider trading in the U.S. Congress drove the passage of Senate and House versions of the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) to prevent members of Congress from making financial market trades based on nonpublic information they learned in the course of their congressional work.
In 2009, Kroft reported on the high cost of end-of-life care, including some procedures and surgeries that only prolonged patients' lives by a few months. In 2008 alone, Medicare paid $50 billion for doctors and hospital bills during patients' last months.
The report won a Peabody award.
In 2009, Kroft reported on computer hackers who could disable critical infrastructures in major cities, disrupt essential services, steal millions from banks, infiltrate defense systems, extort public companies and sabotage American weapons systems.
"If I were an attacker and I wanted to do strategic damage to the United States… I probably would sack electric power on the U.S. East Coast, maybe the West Coast, and attempt to cause a cascading effect. All of those things are in the art of the possible from a sophisticated attacker," Retired Admiral Mike McConnell, a former Director of National Intelligence, told Kroft at the time.
"Do you believe our adversaries have the capability of bringing down a power grid?" Kroft asked.
"I do," McConnell replied.
When Kroft asked if the U.S. is prepared for such an attack, McConnell told Kroft, "No. The United States is not prepared for such an attack."
The report won a Peabody award.
Out of almost 500 stories Kroft reported for the broadcast, he has said the one that emotionally impacted him most was his October 2001 report about financial firm Sandler O'Neill.
The company had lost a third of its employees in the World Trade Center attacks. Just days later, the firm was determined to keep going—while also providing logistical, emotional and financial support to the families of the staff who died in the Twin Towers.
In 2003, Kroft reported on allegations of political influence in the billions of dollars in government contracts awarded to rebuild Iraq.
As Kroft reported, under normal circumstances, the Army Corps of Engineers would have been required to put government contracts out for competitive bidding. But in times of emergency, when national security is involved, the government was allowed to bypass normal procedures and award contracts to a single company, without competition.
The report won a Peabody award.
In the 1990s, Ed Reiners and John Ruffo borrowed millions of dollars from banks, claiming they were buying computers for Philip Morris' top-secret "Project Star." The project was fictitious, and when the scheme was uncovered, Reiners confessed and was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison. Ruffo pled guilty to fraud—but managed to escape on the day he was to turn himself over to the U.S. Marshals Service. Kroft reported on the con in 1999.
In 2006, Iraqi investigators told "60 Minutes" that at least half a billion dollars meant to equip the new Iraqi military had been stolen.
"People have died. Monies have gone missing. Culprits are running around the world hiding and scurrying around. I have to ask myself, why has this happened? It is not every day that you get billion dollar scandals of this kind," Ali Allawi, a Harvard-educated international banker who took over as Iraq's Minister of Finance in 2005, told Kroft.
When he entered office, Allawi was confronted with a gaping hole in the treasury. $1.2 billion had been withdrawn by the new Ministry of Defense to supply the Iraqi army with desperately needed equipment to fight the growing insurgency. Millions had been misspent on old and antiquated equipment, and Allawi said most of the money—some 750 to 800 million dollars—had been stolen.
"It is a huge amount of money by any standard," Allawi told Kroft. "Even by your standards. It's one of the biggest thefts in history, I think."
The report won an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award.
In 2016, Kroft reported on the "28 pages" – a classified chapter from a larger 2002 Congressional report on the intelligence community's preparedness for and response to the 9/11 attacks. Kroft reported that the "28 pages" had to do with the possible existence of a Saudi support network for some of the 9/11 hijackers while they were in the United States.
Three months after Kroft's report aired, the Obama administration released the chapter, which found potential links to—but no direct evidence of—Saudi government ties to 9/11.
In 2013, FBI agents told Kroft about their 16-year search and eventual capture of Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, once No. 1 on the FBI's Most Wanted list.
Bulger had eluded the FBI for years, hiding in plain sight in Santa Monica, California. He was living with his girlfriend as a married couple: Charlie and Carol Gasko. Neighbors thought Charlie Gasko was just a grumpy old man living in a modest apartment, never suspecting he was a wealthy, heavily armed mobster the FBI had been seeking.
"Every now and then, just for the fun of it, we decide to go off to some really obscure place that you've never heard of and are not likely to visit."
That's how Steve Kroft started his 2017 report from Eigg, a small Scottish island that is part of the Inner Hebredis. "It is an ungroomed masterpiece of nature, too wild to tame, a craggy isle of incredible beauty populated mostly by sheep and the dogs that keep track of them," Kroft wrote.
The report won an Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.