The countless tributes to Mike Wallace, who died on Saturday at the age of 93
, focus on his enormously influential role as a television journalist, particularly during his run with “60 Minutes.”
But in 1968, Wallace entertained a job offer outside of journalism when then President-Elect Richard Nixon offered him a job as press secretary.
“I thought very, very seriously about it,” Wallace told The New York Times
in a 2006 interview. “And I finally said to Richard Nixon that I didn’t think I would be a good press guy for him because I’m not a very good person at putting a good face on bad facts.”
Wallace said he regard Nixon with “great respect.”
“He was savvy, smart, hard-working, [and he] knew that he was regarded as anathema,” Wallace said, adding that he also respected Nixon because “he 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.”
Wallace also showed courage in reviving his career as a hard-hitting journalist. Prior to becoming the tough interviewer for which he’s known, Wallace dabbled in theater and as a quiz show host.
In a story on The Atlantic
website, contributing editor Andrew Cohen said
“[Wallace] doggedly transformed himself from a lightweight pitchman and entertainer to a formidable journalist, one of the best interviewers of his or any other era. That transition is an awfully difficult thing to do—most journalists go in the other direction, from reporter to pitchman or public relations—but Wallace just crushed it. America loves a second act? By the time Wallace got to ‘60 Minutes’ in 1968 he was on his fourth or fifth or sixth act.”
Here’s the Times
interview in its entirety: