After tossing a few softballs, Chris Wallace warned his father a real Mike Wallace question was coming.
How did he like actor Chris Plummer's portrayal of him in the movie The Insider, Chris Wallace asked, and "Did you really cave into corporate pressure as the movie said you did?"
The Insider told the story of Jeffrey Wigand, the highest-ranking whistle-blower in the history of the tobacco industry, and how his interview with CBS's 60 Minutes was initially shelved due to fear of a lawsuit from Wigand's former employer.
Mike Wallace said he thought Plummer did a wonderful job and "I didn't cave to corporate pressure." About a quarter of the movie was fictionalized, Mike Wallace said.
The interview between father and son was the featured presentation of an annual fundraiser sponsored by the Morton Plant Mease Foundation held at the Westin Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor on Friday night.
Mike Wallace drew laughs with his ice-breaking greeting: "Good evening, fellow Democrats."
The father and son then spent the better part of an hour firing questions at each another.
After asking his son such questions as "What were the pros and cons of growing up the son of a national icon?" Mike Wallace dug into the meatier topic of what Al Gore was really like when Chris Wallace went to school with him at Harvard. Was he, Mike Wallace wanted to know, "stiff, wooden and smarmy" back in college?
"He was not wooden," said Chris Wallace, chief correspondent for 20/20. "He was kind of a cool guy to hang around."
The two then bantered about likely vice presidential choices, Hillary Clinton's chances of being elected in New York and whom they'd most like to have interviewed (for Mike Wallace, it was Pat Nixon and Pope John Paul II).
Mike Wallace also said that while he had qualms about publicly talking about his battles with depression, people's reaction to the disclosure on a late-night interview program convinced him he should talk about it more.
Mike Wallace, who celebrated his 82nd birthday May 9, has been co-editor of 60 Minutes since it made its debut in 1968. His news experience dates to the 1940s, when he was a radio broadcaster and writer for the Chicago Sun.
Chris Wallace, a frequent substitute host for Nightline, joined ABC News from NBC News, where he had been chief White House correspondent since 1982 and anchor of Meet the Press. He joined NBC in 1975 as a reporter with WNBC-TV in New York City. In 1980, he won an Emmy for the NBC News documentary The Migrant.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used for renovation and expansion of the emergency rooms of Morton Plant Hospital and the two Mease hospitals.
Past benefits have raised more than $340,000.