Clemens stays in character; Wallace fails to press
Posted: Sunday January 6, 2008 10:49PM; Updated: Monday January 7, 2008 12:05PM
With his jaw clenched and the adrenalin flowing as if he were pitching the seventh game of the World Series, Roger Clemens pounced on the question from Mike Wallace. It came 250 seconds into his interview on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday night, and the response was pure defiance.
"My body never changed," Clemens declared, after Wallace read a passage from the Mitchell Report in which trainer Brian McNamee claimed he injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone during the middle of the 2000 season. "If he's putting that stuff up in my body, if what he's saying, which is totally false, if he's doing that to me, I should have a third ear coming out of my forehead. I should be pulling tractors with my teeth."
The long-running newsmagazine has always been a forum for rehabilitation, most famously when Bill and Hillary Clinton appeared on Super Bowl Sunday in 1992 to address accusations about his extramarital affairs. On Sunday night in front of millions, Clemens took his pitch to the American public. He offered more than a dozen denials, uttering "never happened" or "it didn't happen" seven times in the first five minutes. It was compelling theater, and guaranteed to draw strong ratings -- especially with the NFL playoffs as a lead-in. Last week's repeat episode of 60 Minutes drew 12.4 million viewers, the fourth-highest rated program for the week.
CBS breathlessly promoted the interview during the afternoon. "What do you get when Mike Wallace interviews Roger Clemens?" an announcer bellowed. "The biggest sports interview in years." You also get a pal interviewing a pal. Wallace's friendship with the pitcher was a red flag the size of China and the skepticism was not limited to these shores: "Wallace has long been regarded as one of America's tougher interviewers, but, sitting across from his friend, how persistent and skeptical will he be?" asked the Sunday Times (UK).
He proved to be moderately skeptical. Over the course of his long career in broadcast journalism, Wallace has dueled with some of history's most memorable figures, from Yasser Arafet to Deng Xiaoping. At 89, his work rate has understandably slowed. He has morphed from the bulldog reporter who worked on double digit stories annually to his current role as the show's correspondent emeritus. In years past he would have likely handed the show's other signature get: an interview with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Instead, it was Lara Logan who fiercely interrogated Musharraf.
It is now up to the public to decipher how Clemens answered Wallace's queries, but the reporter asked the requisite questions during his interview at the pitcher's home in Katy, Texas. Columnists had demanded Wallace ask Clemens why he refused to discuss the steroid and HGH allegations with Mitchell. He did. "I listened to my counsel," said Clemens. "I was advised not to. A lot of the players didn't go down and talk to him. But if I would have known what this man, Brian McNamee had said in this report, I would have been down there in a heartbeat to take care of it."
Wallace asked Clemens why McNamee would betray him. "I don't know," Clemens said. "I'm so upset about it, how I treated this man and took care of him." Wallace asked Clemens what McNamee would gain from lying? "Evidently not going to jail," said Clemens. "Jail time for what?" Wallace asked in one of his best follow-up questions. "Well, I think he's been buying and movin' steroids," said Clemens.