Photo Credit: Brian Bedder/Getty Images
The world has lost one of its most memorable voices now that Mike Wallace, the TV journalist who spent more than 37 years with 60 Minutes, has died. In his later years, Wallace said that he wanted his epitaph to read "Tough But Fair" -- and as an interviewer, he embodied that spirit. Wallace always did his homework, never backed down from a tough question, and could get no-nonsense answers from anyone, be it Oprah Winfrey or the president of the United States (he spoke to seven of them). But although Wallace created the TV news show as we know it, some of his stories got a lot more attention than others. Here, we look back on Wallace's five most controversial interviews.
1. Jack Kevorkian
Nicknamed "Dr. Death," Jack Kevorkian gained notoriety in the 1990s for practicing doctor-assisted suicide, mainly for patients who suffer from terminal illness. During his 1998 visit to 60 Minutes, the controversial doctor actually played a videotape of himself giving a fatal injection to a man with advanced Lou Gehrig's disease. When Wallace flat-out asked him if he'd killed that man, Kevorkian smiled and answered, "I did... This could never be a crime in any society which deems itself enlightened." That segment provided evidence used at his trial the following year, when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for second-degree murder.
2. Malcolm X
Mike Wallace interviewed civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1964, less than a year before his assassination. The segment was responsible for introducing the Nation of Islam to a mainstream white audience who had been largely unaware of it. Four decades later, Wallace invited Malcolm X's rival Louis Farrakhan onto his show to make peace with Malcolm X's daughter, Atallah Shabazz.
3. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
In 2009, Wallace landed a rare interview with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an outspoken opponent of America and its politics. When Wallace, then 90 years old, asked about his anti-Israel stance, Ahmadinejad got defensive, calling the journalist "a representative of the Zionist regime" and snapping, "This is not journalism, sir.
4. Gen. William Westmoreland
For a 1984 special on the Vietnam War, Wallace questioned military field commander William Westmoreland, who declared in 1967 that America was winning the war. But it wasn't true; the enemies had much greater numbers than the American soldiers were told, and the CIA knew it. After Wallace questioned Westmoreland about the deception on TV, the General sued CBS for libel. The case was settled out of court, but Wallace said he could back up "100 percent of everything we said."
5. Jeffrey Wigand
If you've seen the 1999 Russell Crowe film The Insider, you know the story of Jeffrey Wigand, the whistle-blower who revealed in 1996 that the tobacco industry knowingly lied about the addictiveness of nicotine. Wallace (played in the film by Christopher Plummer) conducted the bombshell interview with Wigand, which CBS at first refused to air out of fear that the tobacco industry would sue them. Wallace reprimanded his own network on TV, and the report was eventually broadcast.
And for something a little lighter, here's Wallace's interview with a young Oprah Winfrey in 1986, just as she was on the verge of success. "It would be wonderful to be acclaimed as this talk show host who's 'made it.' That would be wonderful," she sighed. "But if that doesn't happen, there are other important things in my life.
Mike Wallace died on Saturday at the age of 93. In total, his amazing journalism career spanned 65 years.