Mike Wallace Quotes

Myron Leon “Mike” Wallace, 1918 – 2012

Born: 8 May 1918, Brookline, Massachusetts
Died: 7 April 2012, New Canaan, Connecticut

Wallace was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. He attended local public schools, graduating from Brookline High School in 1935 then received his B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1939. He worked on the campus radio station, then was a newscaster and writer at WOOD at Grand Rapids, then worked as an announcer at WXYZ Detroit, and then freelanced at Chicago. He joined the US Navy in 1943, serving as communications officer on a submarine tender in the Pacific. In 1946 he was discharged and worked in radio in Chicago, including routine announcing, covering wrestling, and voicing commercials. He created an interview program called Night Beat for DuMont’s New York City station, critics referred to it as “Brow Beat”, after two years the show moved to ABC, by which time he was using the name Mike Wallace, with some critics calling him “Mike Malice”. At that time his primary income was as the spokesman for Parliament cigarettes but the death of his son Peter in 1962 forced him to reevaluate his work, he asked for, and got, strictly news assignments from then on. Richard Nixon offered him the post of press secretary during the 1968 campaign, which he turned down. Instead he was chosen for the new 60 Minutes program, the aggressive counterfoil to the avuncular Harry Reasoner, he stayed with the program for thirty-eight years. Wallace introduced Malcolm X to the world, his last broadcast was with retired baseball star Roger Clemons. In between he interviewed seven presidents, won 21 Emmy awards, five Peabody Awards, and five DuPont-Columbia Journalism awards. He documented the US Army’s under-counting of the Viet Cong for propaganda purposes which led to a major libel suit by General William Westmoreland. The stress of that trial brought on serious depression and a suicide attempt in 1986, both of which he kept private for many years. He spent the last several years at the Waveny Care Center, his son reported that he had recently appeared to have lost all memory of his career, although he was still in fine form as recently as 2006.

Mike Wallace quotes:

And incidentally, after that attempted suicide, I had twenty of the most interesting and productive years and the reason I’m happy to talk about it in this strange way is that because, if people say, ‘hey, if this guy was in that much trouble that he tried to commit suicide, and look at him today: he’s working, he’s fulfilling his promise or whatever, and so that can happen to you too so be careful about trying suicide. This too shall pass.
    Mike Wallace – on his suicide attempt in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

Because I’m not a very good person at putting a good face on bad facts. I regarded him with great respect. He was savvy, smart, hard working, knew that he was regarded as anathema. I once interviewed him and said the word anathema, Nixon is anathema to a lot of people. He said, “You’re right, you’re right.”
    Mike Wallace – on turning down post as Nixon’s press secretary in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

Because [Nixon] was an underdog, and a loser, I had to admire the courage that he showed in coming back time and again and proving to the American people that they would be wise to elect him.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

Earlier, CBS News was the “mother church” — and along comes a guy by the name of Larry Tisch and Larry Tisch had all the money in the world and what he didn’t have, and what we falsely believed, was that he would love to bask in the glow of CBS and CBS News. In effect, he bought CBS and so he began to tear apart, a lot of people who were first rate lost their jobs. Money at the time seemed to be more important to him than the glory of CBS News — and the public trust of CBS News.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

Every once in a while, what happens is when you suddenly realize that you’ve reached each other as interviewer and interviewee. All of a sudden you forget the lights, the cameras, everything else, and you’re really talking to each other, with each other — but it doesn’t come easy and it doesn’t come often.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

Forgive me for asking, …
    Mike Wallace

He was unpredictable, difficult to work with, genius notions, a genuine adventurer, if you will, in television news at that time.
    Mike Wallace – regarding Don Hewitt, creator of Sixty Minutes

I decided, hey, he would have been a hell of a reporter. He was going to be a writer. He was going to be, do what I had not started out to be, he was starting out to be. And so I said I’m going to do something that would make him proud. That’s when I gave up everything. I was making a fair amount of money doing a variety of things.
    Mike Wallace – on his son Peter’s death in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

I determined that if I was to carve out a piece of reportorial territory for myself it would be the hard interview, irreverent if necessary, the façade-piercing interview.
    Mike Wallace

I figured what was he going to do, take me as a hostage? The translator looked at me as if I were a lunatic.
    Mike Wallace – on 1979 interview with Ayatollah Khomeini

I had never understood what clinincal depression was, and all of a sudden, showing up in that courtroom every day and being called thief, liar, cheat, etc., etc., it became apparent that I was — I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, losing weight — wondering maybe, could I have been wrong?
    Mike Wallace – on Westmoreland libel suit and subsequent depression in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

I remember when I was growing up, … It was Jack Benny that I used to listen to on the radio at 7 o’clock on Sunday nights. And that went on and on, and he became an institution. In our own way I think we’ve done the same.
    Mike Wallace

I suddenly realized that I was in a depression and I also was concerned that I was going to have to be testifying in front of the jury about all of this and by this time my psychiatrist had been feeding me anti-clinical-depression medications which caused my hands to shake and my throat to dry, and everything else to dry and I could see myself up there on the stand, six feet away from the jury, with my hands shaking, and trying to drink water. Well, that son of a bitch is obviously guilty as hell, that’s why his hand is shaking and so forth.
    Mike Wallace – on Westmoreland libel suit and subsequent depression in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

I was so low that I wanted to exit and I took a bunch of pills. They were sleeping pills and at least they would put me to sleep and maybe I wouldn’t wake up and that was fine. My wife, Mary, knew how bad I felt and she saw the pills all over the lot and I had written a note to her and … she called the doctor and they put me on a gurney and took me to the hospital and pumped my stomach and we moved on.
    Mike Wallace – on his suicide attempt in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

I was so low that I wanted to exit. And I took a bunch of pills, and they were sleeping pills. And at least they would put me to sleep, and maybe I wouldn’t wake up, and that was fine.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

I’ve been talking about retiring for a long time but I’m not the retiring type. I’ve said before that I would retire when my toes turn up.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

I’ve often replied, when asked, ‘I’ll retire when my toes turn up’. Well, they’re just beginning to curl a trifle, which means that, as I approach my 88th birthday, it’s become apparent to me that my eyes and ears, among other appurtenances, aren’t quite what they used to be.
    Mike Wallace

Interviews by and large were virtual minuets…. Nobody dogged, nobody pushed.
    Mike Wallace – on typical journalism at the time of Night Beat

It is a public trust, truly, among a lot of people, and not just us old fogeys. There are so many ways to get the news these days. So many ways. Who do you trust? Do you trust CNN, do you trust FOX? Do you trust NBC, ABC, CBS?
    Mike Wallace – on changes in journalism in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

It was an hour and a half documentary, and we were absolutely certain that we were right about what we had learned.
    Mike Wallace – on Westmoreland libel suit in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

Oh, come on, …
    Mike Wallace

Perjury. Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Theft of psychiatric records. Spying by undercover agents. Conspiracy to obstruct justice. All of this by the law-and-order administration of Richard Nixon.
    Mike Wallace – interview with John D. Ehrlichman (ca. 1975)

The person I’m interviewing has not been subpoenaed. He’s in charge of himself, and he lives with his subject matter every day. All I’m armed with is research.
    Mike Wallace

The Westmoreland affair, professionally and personally, was one of the most difficult times of my life. It was just devastatingly difficult because my integrity was put to question, and as a reporter, that’s the single most important thing you’ve got.
    Mike Wallace – Chicago Tribune interview (1989)

To go around the world, to talk to almost anybody you want to talk to, to have enough time on the air, so that you could really tell a full story. What a voyage of discovery it was.
    Mike Wallace – CBS interview with Bob Schieffer, announcing his retirement (2006)

Tough but fair. I’ve said that, and I think that’s a credo for a good reporter, a good journalist. Tough, but fair.
    Mike Wallace – asked “How do you want to be remembered” in “The Last Word” (2012, recorded July 2006)

We became, to our viewers, these are the people who tell it like it is. We could do, in effect, no wrong, so we helped set the agenda. If we did an interesting story on 60 Minutes, that was water-cooler talk the next day.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

We had lighting that was warts-and-all close-ups…. I was asking tough questions and I had found my bliss.
    Mike Wallace – regarding his 1956 “Night Beat”

We thought that he would be happy to be the inheritor of all of the — forgive me — glory of CBS and CBS News. And the glory was not as attractive to him as money. He began to tear apart CBS News.
    Mike Wallace – on Lawrence A Tisch, CBS chairman

When I was a child growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts I thought I’d be a radio announcer, television didn’t exist. The mind’s eye was as good a picture, or maybe as vivid a picture, as the camera picture was and so I figured this would be a hell of an adventure.
    Mike Wallace – “The Last Word” interview, The New York Times (2012, recorded July 2006)

When we found our audience, it was the middle of the civil rights revolution, then Vietnam and Watergate, and we simply got behind the scenes to a lot of those stories, whereas the rest of television did not.
    Mike Wallace – Larry King Live interview (2003)

You don’t trust the media; you’ve said so. You don’t trust whites; you’ve said so. You don’t trust Jews; you’ve said so. Well, here I am.
    Mike Wallace – interview with Louis Farrakhan (2000)

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