7 Interviews That Made Mike Wallace a Legend

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Tough, nosy, insistent. These are just a few of the words used to describe the longtime CBS 60 Minutes interviewer Mike Wallace, who recently died at age 93. The fearless, hard-nosed journalist was best known for his interrogation-style interviews and take-no-prisoners attitude when it came to getting the answers. After nearly 70 years of reporting, Wallace got to interview everyone from world leaders and scam artists to politicians and athletes. But no matter how powerful or popular a figure was, Wallace always came prepared to ask tough questions and get the truth one way or another. Here are seven interviews that made Mike Wallace a legend:

  1. Gen. William Westmoreland

    Wallace interviewed Gen. William Westmoreland about the truthfulness of military intelligence during the Vietnam War. Wallace grilled Westmoreland over enemy numbers and why the U.S. commander did not share the evidence collected by his intelligence chief to the president, Congress, staff, or the media. Wallace put Westmoreland in the hot seat and he didn't like it one bit. The general filed a $120 million libel lawsuit against CBS for the way he was portrayed in the news special, but it was later dropped.

  2. Malcolm X

    A year before Malcolm X was assassinated, Wallace met with the Muslim minister and human rights activist to talk about various black movements and police corruption in the Harlem area. The passionate interview takes an ominous turn when Malcolm talks about his life being in danger and the possibility of death threats, saying "I probably am a dead man already," for opposing Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.

  3. Ayatollah Khomeini

    Wallace famously interviewed religious leader and head of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, during the American hostage crisis in the early '80s. Khomeini wanted the United States to hand over the Shah so that he could be tried for the crimes he committed against the nation. While surrounded by interpreters and security, Wallace asked Khomeini when the American embassy hostages would be released, and he even went as far as to ask the Khomeini what he thought about being called "a lunatic" by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Wallace never failed to surprise and shock his interviewees and this question did just that.

  4. Barbra Streisand

    The Barbra Streisand interview in the early '90s has become known as one of Wallace's harshest meetings of all time. In typical Wallace style, he admits face-to-face that he didn't like her 30 years ago and he thought she was "totally self-absorbed." Wallace's blunt comments and probing questions about her use of psychoanalysis and why she would not perform in concerts brought the singer-songwriter and actress to tears. Instead of tiptoeing around celebrities' feelings as other journalists have done, Wallace brought the same level of questioning and intensity to their interviews.

  5. Louis Farrakhan

    Wallace was known for pushing people's buttons and one of his most memorable moments of doing so was during an interview with the former Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan got up in arms when Wallace said Nigeria "could be the most corrupt nation in the world." The religious and social leader told Wallace he should "keep quiet" because he's in no moral position to be saying which country is the most corrupt. The outburst was an awkward one, but you have to give Wallace credit for keeping things interesting and provocative because, after all, that's what brings in the viewers.

  6. Vladimir Putin

    Who can forget the tense interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2005, in which Wallace lectured the leader on corruption? The ever-so-blunt Wallace challenged Putin, famously saying, "This isn't a real democracy, come on!" This prompted Putin's aides to try to stop the interview, but Putin turned them away and continued the interview. Wallace never backed down from an opportunity to challenge the powerful and ask the uncomfortable questions.

  7. Roger Clemens

    One of Wallace's last interviews was with legendary baseball star Roger Clemens who had been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. Clemens squirmed as Wallace read off dates in which Clemens' former trainer Brian McNamee claimed to have injected the pitcher with steroids and human growth hormone. Even as Clemens relentlessly denied these allegations, Wallace continued to ask tough, probing questions that put "The Rocket" in a tizzy.

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