It’s often been said that the scariest words in the English language were “Mike Wallace is here to see you.”
The man who inspired that fear — through his aggressive interviewing style that could resemble a cross-examination — has died. The longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent was 93. A CBS spokesman says Wallace died last night at a care facility in Connecticut where he had lived in recent years.
His career spanned 60 years — but he became best known after he was the first to be hired for “60 Minutes” when it went on the air in 1968. He became known as a reporter who spent hours preparing for interviews, and then putting his subject on the spot with a skeptical follow-up question.
He could be equally tough on public and private behavior — grilling top Nixon White House aide John Erlichman as the Watergate scandal unfolded in 1973 — and then, years later reducing Barbra Streisand to tears as he mocked her decades of psychoanalysis.
Among those who tried to take Wallace on in court was retired Gen. William Westmoreland, who sought $120 million for a 1982 documentary about the war in Vietnam. Westmoreland dropped the libel suit in 1985 after a long trial.
Wallace once said he didn’t think he had an unfair advantage over his subjects. He said someone he interviews “lives with his subject matter every day. All I’m armed with is research.”
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