The 60 Minutes correspondent, who is celebrating 30 years with the show, revealed last year she had suffered from a severe bout with the virus


In a storied career that has spanned over 50 years, Lesley Stahl always followed the unwritten journalism rule that the reporter should never become part of the story.

This past year, she's inadvertently broken that twice: last spring she revealed that she contracted a severe case of COVID-19; and in October, two weeks before the election, President Trump abruptly walked out of their interview and released it before it even aired on CBS. The Trump interview went viral, but it was Stahl's battle with the coronavirus that had lasting ramifications. 

"Both my husband (writer Aaron Latham) and I had COVID at the same time," she says in this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday. "I had it much worse than he did. I ended up getting pneumonia and had to go to the hospital. Then I recovered 100 percent."

Lesley Stahl
Lesley Stahl
| Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Latham, 77, it turns out, had the opposite experience. "My husband had a very mild case, but he has Parkinson's Disease and it played havoc with his disease, sadly," she says. "It seems the virus accelerated his Parkinson's."

One activity that has helped: boxing.

"He got into this boxing for Parkinson's program and I don't want to say it's lifesaving, but it has been enormously helpful for him psychologically as well as physically," says Stahl, who did a piece on the Parkinson's treatment program, called Rock Steady Boxing, for CBS Sunday Morning in 2015. "You wouldn't say he's really boxing. He's moving around with it. The first time I went with him, I saw people there at the level that he is now and I'm thinking, 'That person is having a great time.' My husband still has a great time, so I'm recommending boxing if anyone has anybody they know with Parkinson's."

As for the Trump interview, "We were shocked," she says of the President's decision to break his agreement with CBS and release it. "I'm still stunned."

Looking back on the day, Stahl, 79, says she could sense something was off from the moment the President entered the room. This was the fourth time the 60 Minutes correspondent had interviewed him, and previously, she says, "He was always quite charming, gracious and would joke around with me before we started. This time was different. This time, he walked in, in a bad mood. We did plan an interview about policy, but I said to him, 'If you say something that's not true, I'm going to have to say something about it.'"

CBS via Getty; Johnny Louis/FilmMagic

After the two locked horns over a range of topics including COVID and the media, Trump removed his mic and left.

"He just seemed to wear out," she says.

The former President might have been the most recent, but he certainly isn't the only person to wither under tough questioning by the award-winning journalist. Since joining CBS in 1972, Stahl, who marked 30 years with 60 Minutes, has interviewed nine U.S. Presidents, from Nixon to Trump. Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy and previous Russian President Boris Yeltsin also walked off, with Yeltsin accusing CBS of being in cahoots with his predecessor Mikhail Grobachev. 

A pioneer in the field, Stahl cut her teeth at CBS reporting on a seemingly small break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. In fact, the day the burglars were arraigned, only two reporters were in the room covering it: Stahl and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

"We became instant friends-in fact, we even dated," she says. "He said, 'Don't let them ever take this story away from you.'" Sound advice that led to her second big break on the story: meeting Latham. 

Latham, who went on to co-write the screenplay for Urban Cowboy, was a writer for New York Magazine at the time.

"He called me out of the blue," she recalls. "I think I slammed the phone down on him. We dated through the hearings and the trials. Then finally Nixon resigned, and we looked at each other and we said, 'What are we going to talk about now?'"

In 1977, the couple wed and had their daughter Taylor, now 43.

Over her remarkable career, Stahl has remained undaunted by the male-dominated field. In 1974, she became the first woman to anchor an election desk at CBS, joining Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Roger Mudd, and Mike Wallace. Nine years later she took over as moderator of Face the Nation. Then, in 1991, producer Don Hewitt asked her to join 60 Minutes. 

"A lot of people say, 'Wow, you got to join the big boys,' but I didn't feel that way," she says. "I had covered the White House for 10 years by then and anchored, and I felt kind of at home. I became part of the boys' club immediately and never had a moment where they made me feel unworthy because I was a woman."

And even after three decades, Stahl says, "It is the best job for a journalist in broadcast television."