The myths around Mike Wallace and his support for African liberation evolved from his role in broadcasting one of the most vile and incorrect versions of one of the most influential and independent movements in the history of African people within the U.S. Wallace was the brainchild behind the 1959 television program "The Hate that Hate Produced." As the title of the program demonstrates, it was not intended to be a promotional piece on our struggle. Instead, it was a propaganda piece designed to dehumanize the growing work and influence of the Nation of Islam in our communities during that period of history. The entire thesis of the program was that there was a sect of African people running around that were intent upon hating Europeans (white people). Wallace's narration of the program did a lot to further advance that backward notion. Many African people, possibly operating under the concept that any publicity is good publicity, have long credited Wallace because that one program was this country and the world's first official introduction to the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad in general and Minister Malcolm X in particular. And possibly because of the airing of that program, which was widely watched throughout the nation, Malcolm and the Nation of Islam were able to use the popularity of that program to further recruit our people into its ranks. This is a reasonable assumption. Most Africans recognize that anything the system criticizes about us is something we should look closer embracing while anything the system directs us to is something we cannot trust. With that understanding, maybe some people have oddly felt the need to give Wallace some credit for this phenomenon.
If the above is true, Wallace doesn't deserve any credit. Wallace was prodded into working to develop the television program by the likes of Louis Lomax, an African reporter who was an avowed "conservative" who also saw the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X as vehicles to advance his journalistic career. Lomax was quite clear at the time that he saw the views of Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam as reprehensible. He and Wallace both agreed that Malcolm and his then organization were not the positive examples that African people should pursue (like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). The interesting thing about this argument is as Malcolm himself was fond of saying in those days, the only reason that King and the mainstream civil rights movement received the attention they received was because of the growing presence of much more militant components within our community like the Nation of Islam. Lomax and Wallace saw producing "The Hate that Hate Produced" as a tactic to discredit the Nation of Islam while holding up the virtue of other more accommodation oriented African organizations. This perspective is proven by the method in which the program highlighted any mention of "white devils" with plenty of commentary to further focus on that element within the Nation of Islam while ignoring the conditions African people experienced that caused the need for organizations like the Nation to form in the first place. The same old imperialist tactic of blaming the victim. There is no hate from any African organization towards Europeans in this world. There is only the cry out for justice and anyone who tries to misrepresent that cry as an attack against white people is someone who has an agenda of discrediting any independent voices for change that don't bow down to the system.
Wallace's "reputation" as our friend was somehow further enhanced after the brutal assassination of Malcolm X. For many people, Wallace's was the voice who informed them about the assassination that sad day of February 21, 1965. Wallace's subsequent connection to many of the people attached to Malcolm and his ability to convince them to conduct interviews with him, further strengthened his image as a friend to Malcolm. A friend to African people.
A significant factor in this confusion is the high regard for Mike Wallace that has always been on public display from the Shabazz daughters of Malcolm X. Attallah Shabazz, the oldest daughter who at nine years old witnessed the tragic event of 1965, had been consistent throughout years in calling for African people to respect Wallace. It was that relationship that led Attallah Shabazz to agree to come on 60 Minutes in 1995 with Minister Louis Farrakhan in an effort that was billed as a reconciliation between the Shabazz family, Farrakhan (for his incendiary comments against Malcolm during that last year of Malcolm's life) , and the Nation of Islam. Only Ms. Shabazz can answer why she held Wallace in the high regard that she apparently did, but the facts calling for a more critical view of Wallace are indisputable.
Less than one year after Malcolm's assassination, Wallace conducted a national television interview with Kwame Ture, who was then known as Stokely Carmichael. Ture was the poster child for the then emerging Black power movement and Wallace wasted little time during that interview working diligently to make Ture appear to be a monster. As Ture attempted to articulate the simple, and ill-refutable, perspective that we as African people have the human right to define our movement, leaders, and direction by any means necessary, Wallace engaged in an extremely crude and racist attack against Ture and the Black power movement as a whole. He accused Ture of being dishonest and ungrateful for the opportunities he had to come into this country from the Caribbean and achieve a college education. He treated Ture's claim that we as a people have the human right to defend ourselves as treason. All of that is classic deflection and paternal dismissal of the legitimate concerns for our dignity that Ture expressed as a 25 year old activist/organizer during that interview. Anyone watching that, and its available today on youtube, cannot in good conscience justify Mike Wallace as anything except a tool for the system against us and our movement.
Whatever type of "friendship" Wallace supposedly had with Malcolm has more than likely been overstated by apologists for the capitalist system. Malcolm does speak of Wallace in his autobiography, but not in the glowing terms that Wallace has benefited from since 1965. And certainly, Malcolm's oldest daughter's reluctance to criticize Wallace is puzzling. Its possible that Wallace had a relationship with the Shabazz family after Malcolm's murder that we are not aware of. Still, its certainly true that even if Wallace played a major role in supporting the Shabazz family after Malcolm's life was cut short, Wallace's work to discredit the militant elements of our movement in this country, including that which was best articulated by Malcolm himself, has to overshadow any personal good he hypothetically could have done for the Shabazz family. I think the best testimony to who Mike Wallace was is represented by who attended his funeral. Everyone there from Attallah Shabazz to Donald and Melania Trump was present. The diversity of attendees was addressed by one of the speakers, a fellow journalist, who stated that the wide range of personalities reflected the fact that Wallace knew "everyone." This indicates his proficiency as an opportunistic journalist. Not his concern for humanity. We can come to that conclusion because Wallace rode the waves of our movement to great benefit to himself. His work with "The Hate that Hate Produced" in 1959 launched his career and that and his subsequent work around Malcolm's assassination certainly played a role in helping him land the spot as an anchor on the 60 Minutes program and its that gig that defined his career. He was no friend of ours. He was just another capitalist operative flunky who saw an opportunity to exploit our suffering for another story.