Mike Wallace died on Saturday evening with his family by his side at Waveny Care Center in New Canaan, Connecticut, where he spent the past few years, CBS said in a statement and on its Sunday morning news broadcast.
“For half a century, he took on corrupt politicians, scam artists and bureaucratic bumblers,” CBS News said on its website. “… Wallace took to heart the old reporter’s pledge to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He characterized himself as ‘nosy and insistent.'”
“His extraordinary contribution as a broadcaster is immeasurable and he has been a force within the television industry throughout its existence. His loss will be felt by all of us at CBS,” Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corporation, said in the statement.
Wallace was one of the original hosts and correspondents of “60 Minutes.” He was a trailblazer, known for confronting his subjects and originating the newsmagazine format, tells The Huff Post. His style became standard for television news.
Myron Wallace was born on May 9, 1918, in Brookline, Massachusetts. He began calling himself Mike because he thought it was more manly than Myron.
After graduating in 1939, Wallace launched his career at radio stations in Ann Arbor and Detroit, where he was as an announcer, and did talk and quiz shows, commercials and news readings, CNN reports.
In 1955 Wallace found his calling with a television show called “Nightbeat,” which featured Wallace asking pointed questions of writers, gangsters, artists and movie stars in front of a stark black backdrop.
He came back to CBS in the early 1960s and was onboard “60 Minutes” for its September 24, 1968, debut. The show broke new ground in broadcast journalism with its undercover reporters, surprise interviews, hidden cameras and one-way mirrors.
Wallace interviewed every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy – with the exception of George W. Bush – and dozens of other world leaders like Yasser Arafat, Ayatollah Khomeini and Deng Xiaoping, according to Reuters.
Fans of Barbra Streisand protested after the singer became emotional and started crying in a 1991 interview when Wallace revealed that Streisand’s own mother had told him she was “too busy to get close to anyone.”
In 1982 Wallace worked on a 1982 CBS documentary that claimed the U.S. military conspired to misstate the strength of the enemy during the Vietnam War, which led to a $120 million libel suit from Gen. William Westmoreland.
The suit was dropped during the trial, CBS apologized and no money changed hands, but Wallace was traumatized by the accusations, which contributed to his depression.
In 1997, Wallace described in a documentary his paralyzing bouts of depression that began in the early 1980s. He revealed that he was taking medication.
Wallace won his 21st Emmy for a 2006 interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and in 2007, he got the first interview with euthanasia advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian following Kevorkian’s release from prison.
During Sunday’s night episode of “60 Minutes,” Morley Safer called Wallace “a one-man truth squad with a remarkable gift for getting to the very core of a story.”
“More than anyone else, he was responsible for the continuing success of ’60 Minutes,'” Safer said. “We’re all in his debt.”
A special “60 Minutes” program dedicated to Wallace will be aired April 15.
Fox News chief Roger Ailes also took to television to pay tribute to Wallace, calling in to the network’s Sunday morning programming. “He’s left an indelible mark on our business,” he said. “He is just a legend and will always be.”
“Mike was irrepressible. You could never … knock him down, he would bounce right back up,” said Safer, expressing a deep admiration for a man whom he’d often jostle against for stories. “The fact is he was nosier than everybody else and more insistent, and more successful at being nosy.”
Wallace, who was married four times, had a daughter, Pauline, and son, Chris, also a television journalist. Another son, Peter, died in a mountain-climbing accident in 1962.