On April 7, 2012, legendary American television journalist Mike Wallace died at age 93. Wallace was most known for his reporting on the CBS television network news show "60 Minutes." The newspaper USA TODAY published a tribute article to Mike Wallace, which read, in part:
60 Minutes star Mike Wallace combined a combative interview style with show-business panache, and his death marks the near end of the era of the tough, old-school reporter.
In a career that spanned seven decades, Wallace evolved from a radio entertainer in the 1940s and TV game-show host in the '50s to the no-nonsense inquisitor of CBS' top-rated news magazine, 60 Minutes, which launched in 1968. He applied his trademark reporting technique — steely questioning, skeptical debating and ambush-style assault on the unsuspecting — well into his 80s.
Radio Liberty experienced Mike Wallace's style of broadcast journalism in 1982 as recounted by former Radio Liberty manager Gene Sosin in his memoirs. when Wallace investigated charges of World War II Nazi collaboration against Anton Adomovich, who had been employed at Radio Liberty from 1957 to 1974:
During this time of charges and countercharges concerning the content of some Radio Liberty broadcasts, another threat to the station's reputation arose in the form of an investigation by the top-rated CBS-TV program, "60 Minutes." In the spring of 1982, CBS informed RFE/RL's New York Programming Center that Mike Wallace wanted to bring his camera crew to our office. They were interested in pursuing information published in a new book, The Belarus Secret, by John Loftus, a Boston attorney and former employee of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations.
Loftus had uncovered evidence during his work in Washington that Radio Liberty hired former Soviet citizens who collaborated with the Nazis during the German occupation of Belorussia in World War II. Anthony Adamovich, a writer for Radio Liberty, was included in Loftus's list. New York Director William Kratch consented to the interview and asked me to join him in front of the camera when Wallace appeared to tape the segment. I called Howland Sargeant for advice, inasmuch as he had been president of Radio Liberty from 1954 to 1975. He confirmed that several members of the Radio's staff in Munich and New York had been collaborators, but that they had been cleared by the proper authorities in the U.S. government before we hired them. In other words, their wartime association with the Nazi occupation was forgiven because the Nazi invaders had offered them the choice of collaborating or being shot. In the case of Adamovich, he had been an editor of a Belorussian newspaper in Minsk and was forced to cooperate with the Germans by continuing his activities under their supervision.
Mike Wallace interviewed Kratch and me for about ten minutes, throwing in a question about the Radio's former clandestine association with the CIA, as if that cast a shadow on all of our activities. I explained that it was Radio policy to employ former Soviet citizens who combined expertise in journalism with personal knowledge of our target area, always making sure, however, that they had a clean bill of health from American counterintelligence. Wallace then acknowledged, "You people are not to blame." But when the show was aired on May 16, 1982, his spontaneous comment had been left on the cutting-room floor at CBS.
To make matters worse, he interviewed Adamovich, an elderly man in poor health, who wilted under Wallace's notorious prosecutorial technique. The telecast produced a negative image of Radio Liberty's hiring policy and tarnished the generally good reputation we had painstakingly built since our struggle with Fulbright and other opponents in Washington. Congresswoman Elizabeth Holzman vented her indignation against Radio Liberty's misuse of American taxpayers' money by allegedly consorting with war criminals.
In September 1982, CBS scheduled a repeat of the program, and I sent a strongly worded telegram to Don Hewitt, chief producer of "60 Minutes," Ira Rosen, and Mike Wallace. At the end of the telecast on the following Sunday, Wallace read the part of my message stating that we hired emigre staff members and freelancers only after they had been cleared by the proper U.S. authorities. Happily, there were no further repercussions. Perhaps the issue was too remote and esoteric for the American public to get exercised about it in the 1980s. The Soviet press gleefully reported the CBS program, but it did not damage Radio Liberty. Our popularity grew tremendously after Gorbachev came to power in 1985 and ultimately divulged previously censored information about many aspects of Soviet reality that Radio Liberty had consistently exposed for three decades, thereby confirming our trustworthiness and reliability.
On Februray 9, 1983, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) wrote a letter to RFE/RL President James Buckley. In part, it read
Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty now employs Mr. Anton Adamovich, a known Nazi collaborator who should immediately be terminated from service and considered for deportation under the provisions of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 and other laws making his residence in the United States illegal.
The FBI knew of Mr. Anton Adamovich's connections to the Nazis according to Mr. Adamovich's own statements on the television show "60 Minutes" aired last spring.
I ask that you take steps to remove Mr. Adamovich from employment with Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and undertake an investigation of other employees who may have collaborated with the Nazis.
James Buckley sent an interim reply to Congreeman Frank on February 22 1983, which, in part read:
Given the continued (and justlfied) intensity with which individuals guilty of war crimes have been pursued, I would have assumed that any "known Nazi collaborator" would have long since been appropriately dealt with.
President Buckley sent a final letter to Congressman Frank on March 10, 1983, which, also in part, read
Following accusations on the CBS “Sixty Minutes” television program of his being a wartime Nazi collaborator, the Radio management, through its U.S. Government oversight board, initiated inquiries through appropriate Government agencies to determine the validity of the charges against Adamovich as well as similar charqes against any other employees or free lance contributors of RFE/RL. To date there has been no evidence given to us which would justify our taking administrative action in the Adamovich case.
War criminal charqes aqainst a number of RFE/RL, staff members have been made in Soviet and East European media for decades. I want to reassure you that as President of RFE/RL I will continue the management practice of investigating all such charges, regardless of source, against our employees and will take required action in all justified instances.
Allan A. Ryan, Director, Office of Special Investigations (OSI), Department of Justice, in response to a request from the RFE/RL oversight Board for International Broadcastings, wrote a letter to the BIB on July 8, 1982, in which he had proposed:
I will not routinely notify RFE/RL of investigations of RFE/RL employees. Such notice may be unfair to an employee against whom charges are not later brought, particularly if it served as the basis for administrative action against the employee; equally important, such notice to a subject at an early stage of the investigation might compromise the investigation itself. OSI personnel may, of course, contact RFE/RL in the normal course of gathering information, but such contacts should not be communicated to the employee, nor, without more, do I think they should form the basis for any administrative action against the employee.
Free-lance use of Adamovich continued for a few years and eventually stopped. Denaturaliization and Deportation proceedings were never brought against Adam Adomovich. He died in New York on June 12, 1998.
For more information:
Sparks of Liberty: An Insider's Memoir of Radio LIberty
Chapter 11, pp. 185-187
A Russian version of the book is online, translated and edited by Ivan and Olga Tolstoi. The link is ftp://realaudio.rferl.org/ru/sosin.pdf. The above segment is on pp. 145-146