I was watching 60 Minutes in November. Lesley Stahl was reporting on the mountain gorillas of Rwanda making a comeback. “Visiting mountain gorillas is no walk in the park. It’s an uphill hike for more than an hour at an altitude of 8000 feet, through that farmland that once belonged to the gorillas just to get to the park.
“Lesley Stahl: Are you out of breath?
Tara Stoinski: Yes. [LAUGHS]
Lesley Stahl: Or is it just me?”
And I thought that reporter must be close to 80! And she was. She must love the gorillas, which she first covered back in 1987.
It occurred to me that I had been watching Lesley Stahl for nearly half a century. As she noted in her 1999 book Reporting Live (1999), she, Connie Chung, and Bernard Shaw were the ‘affirmative action babies’ in what became known as the Class of ’72.” As such, she was assigned to cover, in June 1972, a “third-rate burglary” in the Watergate complex. Like Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post, the seemingly insignificant story really launched her career.
She was a White House correspondent during the presidencies of Carter, Reagan, and part of Bush 41. Also, she moderated the CBS Sunday morning program Face The Nation between September 1983 and May 1991.
Since March 1991, she’s been a correspondent for 60 Minutes. Thirty years is as long as Steve Kroft and the late Ed Bradley were on the show; only Morley Safer and Mike Wallace, both of whom started in 1968 are now deceased, were on longer.
Lesley Stahl received 13 Emmys, plus numerous other awards. One was for “a shocking 2015 report on how some police recruit vulnerable young people for dangerous jobs as confidential informants.” One was for a series based on her “unprecedented” access at Guantanamo Bay prison facilities. “Another [was] for an eye-opening story about China’s huge real estate bubble… She won her 13th Emmy for her interview with the widow of a slain hostage that offered a rare look inside the technically illegal process of negotiating with terrorists.”
Stahl has gotten the big interviews. Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the then-new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and many, many more. She has managed to greatly annoy some of the powerful, including Trump (2020) and then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2007).
“She and her husband, author Aaron Latham, live in New York. They have a daughter, Taylor Latham, and two granddaughters. Jordan and Chloe, the subjects of her book, ‘Becoming Grandma: the Joy and Science of the New Grandparenting.'”