Why I left 60 Minutes – POLITICO Magazine

The obvious question: Why wait 37 years to tell this story?

The nut of the story follows:

“My last 60 Minutes segment, ‘Foreign Agent,’ featured well-known former U.S. officials and presidential campaign aides from both parties who were cashing in on their political connections by working as lobbyists or investment bankers for foreign entities. One of the latter was former Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson, at the time the CEO of the New York-based investment firm Blackstone and, more important, one of Don Hewitt’s closest personal friends. The two men were so close that Don would often join Peterson on his company helicopter for Friday-night flights to the Hamptons, thereby avoiding the summertime bumper-to-bumper traffic.The script we’d written included the line, ‘For Japan and other foreign interests, finding former U.S. officials to do their bidding is not at all difficult,’ accompanied by the image of a Japanese newspaper advertisement with five smiling Blackstone officials, extolling their prior U.S. government service and connections. The translation of the ad read, ‘If you are thinking about developing a new business or an investment strategy … that will be effective in the U.S., by all means, consult us!’During the production process, when I showed Mike Wallace the photo I’d had shipped from Tokyo, Mike said, ‘That’s not our story—you’re not filming that.’ And I countered, ‘Mike, what are you talking about? This is the nut of the story—former officials trading on the prestige of their former positions, trying to make a buck with foreign companies and governments.’ Wallace and I had a huge expletive-filled shouting match, toe to toe, our faces close; I refused to back down, and he stormed out. We put the picture in the piece.The first time Don screened the piece, he quipped, ‘I guess I’m not going to get any more rides on Pete’s helicopter.’ But as the days and weeks wore on, with the piece not green-lighted for air—ostensibly because it was ‘too long’—I realized that I had no choice but to find some sort of editorial compromise, which was offensive to me then and, quite frankly, still is.One day, while I was on the phone, Don walked into my office and asked whether I’d found a way to ‘fix’ the piece.’Yes,’ I said, and I suggested that we remove Peterson’s name from the script and replace it with the name of another well-known Blackstone official, former Reagan budget director David Stockman. It was a nanosecond shorter—two syllables instead of three—and it solved the unstated, real problem that Don had with the story. Don smiled, said ‘Terrific,’ and left the room, which meant the segment had just been approved for air that Sunday.

via Why I left 60 Minutes – POLITICO Magazine.


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