For this past Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes, Bill Whitaker conducted an interview with Mark Pomerantz, the former U.S. attorney who was investigating alleged tax fraud by former President Donald Trump and his company. Pomerantz, who told Whitaker he believes Trump is “guilty of numerous felonies,” resigned from the Manhattan DA’s office last year over frustration that the investigation into Trump’s business practices was not in his eyes adequately pursued. Pomerantz has a new book out in which he says he was working on a racketeering case against the ex president.
Naturally, Trump wasn’t pleased with what he saw and heard on Sunday night’s broadcast, and took to his Truth Social platform shortly after to bash Whitaker’s segment, calling it a “hit job.”
Roughly 24 hours after his headline-grabbing 60 Minutes segment aired, Whitaker was honored with the duPont Columbia Journalism Award for four deeply reported stories on on the intersection of national security and technology: a story on the SolarWinds cyber attack, deep fakes, potential threats to the American power grid and real cyber threats the U.S. government is working to avert.
This is Whitaker’s second duPont win in recent years – he won in 2017 for coverage of the opioid epidemic.
From Trump, to cybersecurity, to opioids, Whitaker is certainly one of the most versatile journalists in the TV news business.
We caught up with the veteran CBS Newser on Monday, hours before the ceremony, and asked for his reaction to the ex-president’s criticism of his story, winning another duPont, his new 60 Minutes colleague Cecilia Vega and whether we can expect to see him back hosting Jeopardy! anytime soon.
TVNewser: Former Pres. Trump launched an attack on your interview with [former U.S. attorney] Mark Pomerantz. He blasted the segment on Truth Social as a “hit job” before suggesting nothing was wrong because “NOBODY WAS HURT!” Any response to his remarks?
Bill Whitaker: We set out to seek the truth and that’s what we do every Sunday on 60 Minutes. This story is no different.
You’ve been honored many times over the years for your journalism. Tell me about the work you’re being honored for tonight at the duPont Awards, and how these 60 Minutes stories stand out to you?
First of all, I’m truly honored that our reporting is being recognized with this prestigious award. We never intended these stories to appear as a “series” – it was really the duPont’s suggestion that you could enter several series as “a beat” that got my producers thinking that we were repeatedly tackling these difficult stories on new threats to national security posed by advances in technology – things like cyber attacks, but also deep fakes, and threats to our power grid. So I’m proud we’ve reported in-depth and early on all of these subjects – which are still in the headlines by the way. Just today it was announced that yet another plot to attack our electric grid – this time in Baltimore- was foiled. Deepfakes and cyber are still around, and with AI coming into the picture, all of these threats are being amplified.
CBS News has been your home since 1984 – nearly 40 years. What are some similarities and differences between CBS News in 2023 and CBS News in 1984?
Similarities: from the day I started it’s been instilled in CBS correspondents that this news division is dedicated to telling the truth. We work hard to make sure that everything we report is factual. We check and re-check and no place is more of a driving force of that than 60 Minutes. 60 Minutes’ quest to tell the truth has been a constant from day one until today.
You have a new teammate over at 60 Minutes – Cecilia Vega. What do you think we can expect from her on the broadcast?
I’m looking forward to having Cecilia join the broadcast. I’ve watched her reporting on the White House and at ABC News for many years and am delighted to see her making a move over to CBS News to join the ranks at 60 Minutes.
You joined the newsmagazine as a full-time correspondent in 2014 after 30 years as a daily CBS News correspondent. What was that transition like – going from daily news reporting to the weekly newsmagazine life?
It’s a big change. Being a CBS News correspondent, and working out of LA, you’re always working on tight deadlines and your day is constantly being turned upside down. I learned to become very organized and depend on my team because as a news correspondent every minute counts. Working for 60 Minutes is every journalist’s dream. Here you have the luxury of time, resources, and the support you need to go after any important story anywhere in the world.
Any plans to guest host Jeopardy! again? Anything else you’d like to branch out and do?
It was a lot of fun to do once, but I’m really fortunate to love my day job at 60 Minutes.
Hero image credit: Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Columbia Journalism School