Wallace ready to pitch questions

Clemens' friend conducting interview on Mitchell allegations

Media

December 26, 2007|By Michael S. Schmidt

Mike Wallace has been a correspondent for CBS' 60 Minutes for the past four decades and more recently has taken on a reduced role, with the weekly news show now describing him as a correspondent emeritus.

So, in some respects, Wallace, 89, will be coming off the bench when he interviews Roger Clemens about his link to steroids and human growth hormone for a segment that is scheduled to be broadcast Jan. 6.

In a telephone interview Monday, Wallace - who last interviewed Clemens for 60 Minutes in 2001 - said representatives for the pitcher had reached out to producers of the show in the hope that Wallace would agree to interview him.

"When we went down there to profile him, we went to his home, I watched him exercise, I watched him work out, and he became my friend," Wallace said. "He trusts me and is going to talk to me, and I hope he can answer all the questions on my mind."

Clemens has become the flash point of George Mitchell's report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. About 90 players were linked to such drugs in the report, and the disclosure of Clemens' name caused the biggest stir. His former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, told Mitchell's investigators that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone on 16 occasions between 1998 and 2001. Since the report was issued, Clemens has issued several denials that he used steroids or hGH, with those assertions coming through his lawyer, a statement issued by his agents and a video posted on the Internet. But Clemens has yet to subject himself to direct questions from a reporter. Apparently, that will not occur until the interview with Wallace.

Wallace said Monday that he has begun to map out the questions he wants to ask Clemens.

"Why would McNamee say these things he said?" said Wallace, a point that has been asked by others in light of the fact that McNamee was compelled to meet with Mitchell's investigators by federal prosecutors and could be in legal jeopardy if found to be lying.

"Mitchell is thorough, fair and careful," Wallace said, "so you have to take that into consideration as well when you are thinking about questions to put to Roger."

Wallace acknowledged that some might perceive him as a less-than-perfect questioner because he is a New York Yankees fan. He has been a frequent guest of owner George Steinbrenner in Steinbrenner's suite at Yankee Stadium, where Clemens played for six seasons and helped the team win two world championships.

"I like Steinbrenner, he liked me, we became good friends," Wallace said. "I spent a lot of time in his suite."

But Wallace added: "A reporter wants to be objective. You know that."

Among those with great interest in what Clemens might say are several thousand high school coaches in Texas who, in light of the Mitchell Report, remain undecided about having Clemens speak at their annual convention Jan. 12.

In a telephone interview Monday, Jim Long, president of the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, said the group wanted to see what Clemens would say about the Mitchell report on 60 Minutes.

"We are not asking Roger questions like reporters," Long said. "He has denied the allegations, and we are just like everybody else and want to learn more. We are trying to get as much information as possible before we make a decision."

Long said most coaches in the association still wanted Clemens to speak at the convention.

"They are going to be mad if he doesn't come," he said. "The coaches want to hear about his workouts and work ethic and are not concerned about public opinion."

Along with whatever Clemens tells Wallace on 60 Minutes, his demeanor will be scrutinized by those doubting his assertions that he never used performance-enhancing drugs and those inclined to believe him.

In the Internet video - which was released Sunday and consisted of four separate clips - Clemens specifically said McNamee never injected him with either steroids or hGH.

For Clemens, 60 Minutes will be a less-controlled environment than a video he helped to produce, even if Wallace acknowledges Clemens "likes and trusts us."

"It was perfectly understandable to me when all these charges came busting out that we would be getting in touch," Wallace said.

Now come Wallace's questions. And beyond the Jan. 6 broadcast loom two congressional hearings on the Mitchell Report and the possibility Clemens will be summoned to one or the other to testify under oath.

Michael S. Schmidt writes for The New York Times.

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