The one big interview Mike Wallace regrets never landing was with Pat Nixon.
Wallace, who was given a lifetime achievement award by the New York Press Club on Tuesday night, said he learned while traveling with the Nixons in 1968 that she was a brave, smart woman — not the “plastic Pat” as she was sometimes portrayed.
“She was a genuine, lovely, fine woman who was bruised by what happened to her husband,” he said. “[She was] intelligent, loyal and raised wonderful kids.”
Wallace, who said last week he was retiring from CBS News’ “60 Minutes” this spring, also said he turned down an offer to become Nixon’s press secretary at the White House.
Asked who was the best president he had seen in his years as a reporter, Wallace — who considers Nancy Reagan a close friend — said it was her husband.
“Ronald Reagan knew who the hell he was,” he said. “He had his convictions. He was comfortable in his skin. I thought he was a superb president.”
Some of Wallace’s “60 Minutes” colleagues were on hand to watch the 87-year-old newsman receive the award. Lesley Stahl even tried to put him on the spot, asking whether there was any question he was embarrassed to have asked. He said no.
“There is no such thing as an indiscreet question,” he said.
Leave it to Andy Rooney to get — as he does on “60 Minutes” — the last word.
“Do you think there’s any possibility you could get CBS management to split your salary up amongst the rest of us?” Rooney said.