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The Religious Affiliation of Veteran Broadcaster
Reporter for the TV News Show 60 Minutes
From: Carole Mikita, "'Old Friend' Mike Wallace in Town for Birthday Celebration", 22 July 2005, write-up of broadcast news story, posted on KSL News website (http://tv.ksl.com/index.php?nid=5&sid=220715; viewed 22 July 2005):
he community birthday party for President Gordon B. Hinckley is just hours away. His 'old friend', and that's what they call each other, Mike Wallace from '60 Minutes' is in town to pay tribute.
From: Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Mike Wallace: CBS icon visits his friend" in The Salt Lake Tribune, 23 July 2005 (http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_2883951; viewed 23 July 2005):
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley "was not and is not happy with the war in Iraq," CBS newsman Mike Wallace said Friday. "He deplores what's going on there."
The relationship between Pres. Hinckley and Mike Wallace began with a huge dose of skepticism from each one. All of that changed to what has now become a lasting friendship.
Mike Wallace: "This is a church run by old men."
Pres. Hinckley: "Isn't it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head? A man of judgment who isn't blown about by every wind of doctrine?"
Mike Wallace: "Absolutely, as long as he's not dotty."
Pres. Hinckley: "Thank you for the compliment."
Mike Wallace was surprised then by the unprecedented access to the leader of a worldwide faith. Now, the depth of feeling for his interviewee has only grown. His perception of the faith, Wallace says, changed from skeptical to intrigued. So, is he interested in joining?
Mike Wallace: "I'm not a particularly religiously-oriented person. I'm Jewish, so maybe I'm one of the lost tribes."
Mary and Mike Wallace made the trip; he joins other guest artists in a celebration of President Hinckley's life. He will narrate, reading a church-written script. He was a bit concerned.
Mike Wallace: "Patsy to the Mormon church, me? Well, because I have the feeling that I do about Gordon B. Hinckley, I figure I'll get a pass on this."
They met this morning without the cameras, but ever the newsman, Wallace asked the president how he felt about the war in Iraq.
Mike Wallace: "He's unhappy about what has happened there, what continues to happen there. He deplores what is going on there."
But the occasion is social he insists, so to reporters he posed a question.
Mike Wallace: "He's an extraordinary man, don't you agree?"
When Tabernacle Choir leaders told Pres. Hinckley Mike Wallace had agreed to come, he got tears in his eyes. Other guest artists include Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond, The 5 Browns, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The longtime reporter, who interviewed Hinckley for "60 Minutes" in 1995, was in Utah to participate in Hinckley's 95th birthday gala at the LDS Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
"It wasn't an interview situation, so I didn't press'' Hinckley, Wallace told a half-dozen or so reporters. "But I was sorry I didn't have a camera."
LDS spokesman Dale Bills was quick to say the church "has no position on the war in Iraq" and that Wallace's comments were "his own characterization of a private conversation."
The comments were made at a church-arranged news conference Friday morning where the tanned, relaxed Wallace spoke about his fondness for Mormons, who really wrote his tribute to Hinckley, and how he justifies praising Hinckley when he may cover him again one day.
Wallace said he has never "had a relationship with any clergyman." He is Jewish, but not "a pious or religious fellow." And he wouldn't have agreed to speak at a party for Evangelist Billy Graham or Pope John Paul II. But it's different with Hinckley, leader of the 12 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two have been friends since 1995; Wallace said he had come away impressed by Hinckley's "courage and imagination." He later wrote the preface to Hinckley's 1999 best-seller, Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes.
When Mormon officials first approached Wallace about the party, the newsman balked. He doesn't like the stress of travel. So Utah businessman Earl Holding offered to send his private jet to pick up Wallace and the deal was struck.
Beyond that, Wallace acknowledged Friday that he only edited his 8- to 10-minute birthday tribute to Hinckley. Hinckley's official biographer, Sheri Dew, wrote piece.
"A patsy for the Mormon church? Me?" he asked somewhat facetiously. "Because I have the feelings I do [for Hinckley], I figure I'll get a pass on this."
Wallace doesn't worry about being criticized by his colleagues at CBS, he said. "I'm over the hill anyway, so they don't care what I'm doing."
Although the gala was broadcast on KSL-TV, an NBC affiliate, CBS has the right to take what they want from the event, and Wallace said he may do an update on the 1995 interview.
That's where the conflict might arise.
"If he did another story on Hinckley, I would find it problematic," said Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion at University of Southern California.
Wallace is hardly ready to convert, but he is impressed by Mormons he meets.
"When you come out here and talk to people, you look in their eyes, they're so damned happy," he said. "Everyone looks so innocent. Maybe there's something we've been missing."
As for journalists, the 87-year-old cautioned newcomers not to let skepticism "curdle into cynicism."
When he first went to work at CBS, he said, it was like "working for the Mother Church." He was thrilled to be involved and still loves the work.
But today's journalism "ain't what it used to be," he said. "It is too much hubbub, too many channels, too much gossip and infotainment. The bad can drive out the good."
Donny Osmond performs during the LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley's 95th birthday celebration at the LDS Conference Center on Friday.
Webpage created 22 July 2005. Last modified 22 August 2005.
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