9 Apr 2012

US broadcaster Mike Wallace dies

9:08 am on 9 April 2012

American broadcaster Mike Wallace, famed for his hard-hitting interviews, has died aged 93.

Wallace worked on CBS's 60 Minutes news programme and when he left his full time role in 2006 after 38 years was given the title correspondent emeritus.

Just about anyone who made news during the past six decades in the United States had to submit to a grilling by Mike Wallace.

He interviewed every US president since John Kennedy - with the exception of George W Bush - and dozens of world leaders including Yasser Arafat, Ayatollah Khomeini and Deng Xiaoping.

When Wallace prefaced a question with "Forgive me for asking ..." or responded to a dubious answer with "Oh, come on," viewers knew he was about to get tough.

His sometimes-abrasive manner resulted in the nickname "Mike Malice," and some viewers will always remember him as the man who made diva Barbra Streisand cry on camera.

In a 2006 retrospective of his 60 Minutes career, Wallace summed up his interviewing technique as: "Let's ask the questions that might be on the minds of the people looking in ... 'If I were there in that chair where Wallace is, here's what I would want to know.'"

In a 2005 interview with The Boston Globe he said: "I determined when I started back in 1956 ... there's no such thing as an indiscreet question."

He worked on some 800 reports for CBS, one of which led to $120 million libel suit and triggered a case of depression that led him to attempt suicide.

The 1982 CBS documentary claimed the US 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 the accusations contributed to his depression.

Wallace's depression grew so severe he tried to kill himself with a drug overdose in 1984. He was saved by his wife, Mary.

Wallace often spoke about his recovery from depression and said the years after his suicide attempt were some of the most productive of his life.