The tragic death of Chris Wallace’s brother
Chris Wallace is most recognized as the unlikely host of “Fox News Sunday,” and son of famed “60 Minutes” newsman, Mike Wallace. A registered Democrat among a sea of red supporters, Wallace has worked at the conservative news station for over 16 years, and he’s managed to find a way to bring impartiality back to news reporting (via The New York Times). Respected by his colleagues on both sides of the political fray, and feared by everyone he interviews, Wallace explained his unique position to Town & Country Magazine, stating, “I view my job as being the cop on the beat, walking around with a nightstick and trying to keep people honest — both Republicans and Democrats.”
It’s that impartiality and his love of the more confrontational questioning and old style of news interviewing that draws many comparisons to his father’s style that has given Wallace not only success in the business but clout (via Mental Floss). Back in 2014, he told Parade, “I think that it’s in the Wallace DNA to come at stories and come at people straight on.”
Estranged from his dad at an early age after his parents’ divorce, had it not been for his brother’s tragic and sudden death in the summer of 1962, the elder Wallace and his son may never have rekindled the relationship that ultimately became Chris Wallace’s professional inspiration (via CBS).
Chris Wallace and his father healed their relationship through shared tragedy
Growing up, Chris Wallace had little to no interaction with his father, who admittedly put his career in entertainment ahead of his family. His step-father, Bill Leonard, became Dad to young Chris Wallace and his older brother Peter. But on August 31, 1962, tragedy struck when Peter Wallace died at just 19 years old. He was backpacking in the mountains of Greece near Corinth when he fell to his death (via Yale64.org). Chris Wallace was just 14 years old when his brother died, and that significant trauma ultimately changed the trajectory of his life.
After his son’s death, Mike Wallace vowed to reconnect with the teenage Wallace. He quit his acting and advertising work and took a more steady job as a CBS News Correspondent so he could spend more time with his son. While the two reconnected, the elder Wallace didn’t take to his role in broadcast journalism until 1968 when he was offered a seat on a new show 60 Minutes. That’s where he became a master of what CBS called the “ambush interview” that Chris Wallace eventually took his inspiration from.
Chris Wallace credits his father as his biggest influence
After nearly 50 years in the business, including a famously tense interview with Vladimir Putin in 2018 that boldly asked why so many of his political enemies end up dead, it’s not hard to see that Wallace was influenced by his late father’s style. When asked by Parade who his inspiration was, he candidly replied, “Not in a sense that I self-consciously copied him, but obviously my dad. First of all, he was one of the great reporters, one of the great interviewers, and you know, just being around him, watching how he conducted himself, watching how he prepared to do his stories, that had an enormous influence on me. I can’t think of a better teacher.”
In many ways it was Peter Wallace’s death that not only brought a father and son together, but also forged two careers that would become iconic in American broadcasting. After his death in 2012, Chris Wallace released this statement about his father (via LA Times): “My dad was everything you saw on television: fascinating and funny, challenging and exasperating. He was the best reporter I have ever known. And while work often came first for him, over the last 20 years, he worked hard to make connections with his family. He became my best friend. And at the end, he was surrounded by children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. I already miss him terribly.”
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