Why is Mike Wallace afraid?

Posted: Dec 06, 2005 1:05 AM

Mike Wallace says President Bush is afraid to be interviewed by him.  The 87-year old reporter for “60 Minutes” made the comment on MSNBC’s “Hardball” earlier this week, in an exchange with host Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: So why is the man in the oval office afraid of the man on “60 Minutes”? Mike, why is George W. the man in the White House afraid to interview you.

WALLACE: Because he pays attention strictly to Karl Rove and that’s why from the very beginning that Karl Rove will not permit him to sit down with me.

After seeing this, I can’t help but wonder why Mike Wallace is afraid of me. 
You see, I put in a request with Wallace’s publicist several weeks ago, asking him to come on www.nranews.com and my show “Cam and Company” to talk about his new book and his recent appearance at a fundraiser for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  At the time, I was told that Wallace wasn’t doing any more interviews.  That’s apparently not the case, so I’m left to wonder why it is that Mr. Wallace won’t speak with me.

On one hand, perhaps it’s understandable.  He’s managed to appear on a number of news and interview programs to promote his new book without once having to answer a question about the slap on the wrist he recently received from CBS News for his involvement with the gun control movement.  Why ruin a good thing by actually discussing one of the less impressive moments in an impressive career?

Still, it’s awfully hypocritical for Wallace to accuse President Bush of running scared when he himself has some questions to answer.  When Wallace appeared at the fundraiser for the Brady Center on September 28th of this year, he openly mocked the past president of the NRA, Charlton Heston.  He disparaged gun owners in general, saying you couldn’t reason with the “legions of the already convinced”.  He spoke of the money he gave to the Brady Center in exchange for his tickets to the fundraiser, and he ribbed his good friend Art Buchwald, who lent his name to the event (it was billed as a birthday celebration for the humorist).  Why would Wallace do this?  Wallace, who once said that he would watch soldiers die rather than warn them of an ambush in order to maintain his objectivity, threw away that objectivity for a cheap laugh at the expense of a man with Alzheimer’s and a few bucks for an organization that wants more gun control.  The question I have for Mike Wallace is:  was it worth it? 

After I learned about Wallace’s appearance at the Brady Center fundraiser, I sent an email to Vaughn Ververs, the public editor of CBS’s Public Eye blog.  I asked him if Wallace’s appearance and comments had violated any network rules.  He followed up with both Wallace and Linda Mason, the senior vice president for standards at the news organization.  Wallace never expressed any remorse for his appearance, and said the whole thing was meant to be a joke.  According to Mason, the network policy states if someone has become identifiable with an issue, they are no longer allowed to report on that issue for CBS.  After investigating, Linda Mason said the network says if Wallace suggests a story about gun control in the future, and the network determines there’s a conflict of interest, they will reject the story.  As Ververs put it, “I take that to mean we won’t be seeing Mr. Wallace doing any more stories involving Second Amendment issues.”  I’d like to think the network failed to see the humor in Wallace’s appearance as well. 

Ververs did a tremendous job in bringing this story to light, but it’s a shame that he’s the only CBS employee willing to talk about this.  Mike Wallace prides himself in asking tough questions, yet he’s unwilling to face questions about his own actions.  Now that Wallace is making the rounds of TV shows again, I’ll be putting in another request to his publicist.  Maybe this time Wallace will realize his hypocrisy.  You can’t demand to interview the President as a journalist while you stonewall the media as a news figure.