Nikita Khrushchev and "Face the Nation"'s biggest scoop

This week's news is a reminder that no story has gotten more attention over the last half-century than America's relationship with Russia. In fact, it was that story that produced "Face the Nation"'s biggest and most controversial scoop.

It was June 2, 1957, and "Face the Nation" was going to make history. After two years of dead-end negotiations, producers had managed to book the very first television interview with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Most of his answers proved unremarkable. But what made front pages around the world was the simple fact that Khrushchev, who had never been seen doing an interview by his own people, had been seen and heard in America's living rooms.

"I can prophesize that your grandchildren in America will live under socialism," he said, wagging a finger.

With Cold War tensions running high, some government officials accused CBS of putting out Communist propaganda. Secretary of State Dulles refused to watch the interview.

Even President Eisenhower, a staunch internationalist, suggested it was a phony exercise:

"We know that there are no prepared questions here and no prepared answers," he said. "It is a matter of trying to deal honestly with each other, and then putting it in the papers and on the radio and on the television screen; and this other performance of last Sunday afternoon was far from that."

Some in Congress even called for laws to keep foreign leaders off television unless the government gave permission.

But CBS President Frank Stanton stood by the interview, and it came to be hailed as a journalistic milestone, establishing that broadcasters had the same right as newspapers to report the news without government interference.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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