CBS News' Mike Wallace, whose name was synonymous with the tough interview and who spanned multiple generations of journalistic excellence, has died.
He was 93 and passed away peacefully last night in New Canaan, Conn.
"All of us at CBS News and particularly at 60 Minutes owe so much to Mike. Without him and his iconic style, there probably wouldn't be 60 Minutes," said Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes.
The AP's David Bauder noted that the journalist's reputation as a relentless inquisitor was so fearsome that he once described the words "Mike Wallace is here to see you" were the most dreaded words in the English language.
"Wallace didn't just interview people," wrote Bauder.
"Mike interrogated them. Mike cross-examined them. Sometimes he eviscerated them. His weapons were many: thorough research, a cocked eyebrow, a skeptical "Come on" and a question so direct sometimes it took your breath away."
"He loved it," Fager added. "He loved that part of Mike Wallace."
"He loved being Mike Wallace. He loved the fact that if he showed up for an interview, it made people nervous. ... He knew, and he knew that everybody else knew."
"He knew he was going to get to the truth. That's what motivated him."A special program dedicated to Wallace will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, the show that featured him for decades, will air next Sunday, April 15.
Wallace helped anchor 60 Minutes, TV's first news magazine, making it appointment viewing on Sunday nights and still compulsively watchable.
His last interview aired in January 2008. Slowed by a triple bypass later that month and by the overall ravages of time, he retired from public life.
Wallace's career highlights are too numerous to list.
During the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, he asked Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini what he thought about being called "a lunatic" by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Khomeini answered by predicting Sadat's assassination.
Late in his career, he interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin, and challenged him: "This isn't a real democracy, come on!" Putin's aides tried to halt the interview; Putin said he was the president, he'll decide what to do.
Wallace's late 60 Minutes colleague Harry Reasoner once said, "There is one thing that Mike can do better than anybody else: With an angelic smile, he can ask a question that would get anyone else smashed in the face."
Farewell to one of the all-time greats.