In February 1956, the new dictator at the helm in the Soviet Union was Nikita Khrushchev. He made clear his complete control by uncorking a stunning four-hour secret speech to a closed session of the Communist Party, where he boldly unveiled a litany of horrors exposing Joe Stalin's mass annihilation.
The speech was a political-ideological bombshell. As word of Khrushchev's "Crimes of Stalin" speech became public, reporters scrambled to get the text, which would ultimately be published in a gigantic 24,000-word transcript in The New York Times. The news was devastating not only to Stalin's house of lies but to the American communists who had pledged their loyalty to Stalin's dystopia.
One can imagine why journalists jockeyed to be the first to get the text of the speech. It would make the front page of every newspaper.
One such journalist was a young reporter from Cleveland named Doris O'Donnell. A trailblazing female journalist, Doris hopped a plane in May 1956 and began a series of frightening flights to Moscow, right to the bosom of the Kremlin. There, she rubbed arms with the big boys angling for the story.
Doris never did get that text from Khrushchev. Nonetheless, she did file a series of really good stories exposing life in Bolshevik Russia. She ditched her KGB-trained guides and wandered into forbidden areas where she talked to real Russians and discovered the trauma of their experiences.
Doris would go on to write many great stories, always daring to go where few others would. She went to Dallas in November 1963, after the shooting of John Kennedy. In June 1968, she trailed the gun that killed JFK's brother, RFK. A year later, she went to Chappaquiddick, where she found scandalous information on JFK's and RFK's reckless little brother, Teddy. All of this, for the record, she shared in her fun, informative 2006 memoir, "Front-Page Girl."
Doris O'Donnell eventually ended up at the Tribune-Review, where she wrote numerous stories and solidified a long friendship with the late Dick Scaife, it's owner. She contacted me in 2010 in response to my book, "Dupes." She encountered more than a few dupes in her life of work on the communist threat, as did Mr. Scaife, who also read the book and discussed it with Doris.
She, Scaife and I finally met at his home in November 2013. The conversation was wonderful, with all sorts of stories and Doris goading me with front-page material for stories I might pursue.
I remember thinking that Doris looked like she could easily live to be 100.
Alas, it was not meant to be. It was, however, a long life fully lived.
May Doris O'Donnell-Beaufait, front-page girl, rest in peace.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His latest book is "Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage."