The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
60 Minutes recently drew criticism from left, right and journalism groups for alleged lapses in its reporting about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his state's Covid vaccination program. The news program stood by its story. Today, we have a fascinating inside look at the legendary broadcast with award-winning producer Ira Rosen, whose book is called, Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes.
Sharyl: Mike Wallace was notoriously difficult to work for. Was that your experience over the decades?
Ira Rosen: Horribly difficult.
Sharyl: Did you get used to it or did you find you could sort of command your performance around him or it didn't hurt so much?
Ira Rosen: What you do, what I did was I went into a cone of silence and when we were driving once down I-5 in LA and he was yelling and screaming at me, the shoot didn't go particularly well. And he was ripping my notebook and he was throwing papers at me and he was covering the windshield, I couldn't see very much. And I began to chant a Buddhist chant and just to get into the zone and away from the abuse that I was experiencing. He said years later upon reflecting about how he treated his producers, he said I was tough on them, but the stuff I turned out was first rate. And a lot of the producers over the years never really forgave him for the way that he treated, because no matter how good the work was, and it was great work, it didn't require him to be yelling at you and screaming at you and to go through that.
Sharyl: Did you stay in touch with Mike Wallace up until his death?
Ira Rosen: I did. I saw it. And at the end of the days, he had early Alzheimer's and actually mid-level Alzheimer's and he forgot that he worked at 60 minutes and it was so sad. Here was this amazing career that he went through and he didn't even remember he worked there. The only thing he remembered was drop-shotting me in tennis and watching me chase the ball and fall on my face. And that gave him so much pleasure. And that's what he remembered at the end.
Sharyl: In some form or another, you've touched on so many major news stories that have happened. What do you know if anything about the Epstein case? Because more than a year after his death, I think a lot of people are wondering, do those tapes exist that some people think that he made of famous people in compromising positions?
Ira Rosen: Right. Well, I met Ghislaine Maxwell at a party.
Sharyl: She was his former partner.
Ira Rosen: She was, yeah, exactly. And so, she asked me to drive her home one night and she tried to seduce me. And it's not like it happens every day, it was sort of a memorable moment. And so obviously I didn't go there. Back on Camera: But a few months later, I called her up and I asked her, this is right before the 2016 presidential election. And I called her, obviously, let's go get a drink. We got a drink. And I said, I want the tapes of president Trump. I knew she was a Hillary Clinton supporter.
Sharyl: So you thought she had compromising tapes of Trump?
Ira Rosen: That Epstein had compromising tapes of Trump. And she said to me, she put a finger in my face and she said, Ira, I'm the daughter of a press baron I know the way you people think. If you do one side, you have to do the other. Meaning if you do Trump, you have to do Clinton, Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton rode on the quote Lolita Express plane, like 26 times. And I said, I'll go wherever the story takes me. You get me, the tapes I'll do the story. I don't care whose on the tape. And she basically kind of acknowledged the existence of the tapes, but she didn't know where Epstein kept them. The other interesting things she said during that drink was she said Epstein spends his time trying to live forever. And he was running around the world trying to figure out ways of preserving his body. And so I thought about that. Why would a guy who's trying to preserve his body try to kill himself? He already beat the rap once in Florida, he hired the best lawyers, he got off. Why didn't he think that maybe this could happen a second time? If he was so obsessed with living forever, preserving his brain, why would he kill himself?
Sharyl: So do you suspect that he didn’t?
Ira Rosen: I suspect he didn’t.
Sharyl: Journalism has changed obviously in the time that we've been committing it. What do you think of the current turn that it's taken? Is it for better, for worse or a mix?
Ira Rosen: Well, I think it's for the worse. The Washington Post, and I don't want to just say the Washington Post, because it was really all the media, was really tough on the Trump administration. Well, my view is they got to be equally as tough with the Biden administration, and I'm not seeing that. So that's what I like to see reporters do more often. And I'm not seeing the tough investigative work being done on this administration the way it was done in the last administration.
Sharyl: If you had to say it kind of simple terms what it is that made 60 minutes work, what would you say?
Ira Rosen: Art of telling stories, but I kind of miss the old storytelling. I miss Harry Reasoner sitting there with the most expensive meal in the world. And you are sitting there with him as he's enjoying himself. I miss Morley Safer on the train through Europe and seeing that adventure that he took there. I miss Ed Bradley telling a great spy story with eight different standups. And of course I miss Mike Wallace confronting these miscreants. And Don used to say, you may not like all three stories, but I guarantee you're going to like one of them. And that's sort of what I miss. I miss the storytelling, the art of the storytelling with these geniuses.
Sharyl (on-camera): Rosen says the backstabbing and competition among the 60 Minutes staff was as legendary as the personalities. He says that Ed Bradley once didn’t speak to him for 15 years thinking Rosen helped Mike Wallace steal a story idea from him.
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