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Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the loss of Mike Wallace was much on partygoers’ minds at THR’s event honoring the most powerful media players in New York on Wednesday night.
Wallace died Saturday at the age of 93, drawing a flood of memorials over his famously hard-charging reporting style and commitment to journalism. The tributes continued at the swanky Four Seasons Restaurant in midtown Manhattan, where guests from CBS News chairman Jeff Fager to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos weighed in on Wallace’s death and legacy.
“You can’t really compare anybody to him because he was that unique,” Fager, also the executive producer of CBS’ 60 Minutes, said at the party for THR’s 35 Most Powerful People in Media. “He was tough. I mean, he was a prick. In person too. And that’s what we loved about him. Everything he felt, (it) just came right out of him. And he was a wonderful reporter who really just wanted to get to the truth. That was his motivating role in life. ‘Just get me to the truth,’ and one way or the other, he found out. He got to the truth.”
60 Minutes correspondent Kroft, a media-powerful honoree alongside Fager, said: “I think his legacy will be 60 Minutes, which is a pretty good legacy to have. I don’t think the show would have ever gotten off the ground without him. And I think there’s longevity. How many people have been parodied on the Sid Caesar Show and Saturday Night Live and on The Simpsons?”
Wallace became a household name through oft-confrontational one-on-ones with political figures, power players and various subjects of scandal, not to mention Hollywood names like Barbara Streisand, whom he called “self-absorbed.”
“He had all the instincts, all the gut of a prosecutor and all the showmanship of an entertainer and the way he put it together was unique. He was a pioneer, and a lot of us learn from him,” said Stephanopoulos, co-anchor of Good Morning America.
Hoda Kotb, who co-hosts the fourth hour of the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford (who Wallace might have had a field day with in the interview hot seat), said: “Every journalist who’s alive today looked up to Mike Wallace. He was the guy who started off with the ambush interview and figured out how to be tough but fair. And he was always fair. And I was so in awe of his tone.”
Roger Ailes, a legend himself at the helm of the Fox News Channel (and skeptic of Keith Olbermann‘s job prospects), said he got to know Wallace through the journalist’s son, Chris Wallace, an anchor at Fox. “He was a great, great newsman. He really was. … You know, I just liked him. He was a terrific human being,” he said.
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