My reaction: "Huh?"
Darling Husband told me that Nixon had won his first election in California by painting his female rival as a Communist, but couldn't remember any details.
I filed that away in the "Tidbits" section of my brain. Then I was reading the NYT over breakfast this morning, and in the middle of an article on newly colorized films on DVD, I hit this nugget about the 1935 movie "She":
To incarnate She (who in the novel is called Ayesha), [producer Merian C.] Cooper cast a well-known Broadway actress, Helen Gahagan, whose first and last film this was. The wife of the actor Melvyn Douglas, she turned to politics and served three terms in the House of Representatives before she was defeated in a 1950 Senate race by a young Richard M. Nixon in a notorious red-baiting campaign.Aha!
And then I remembered another tidbit I'd filed away: in a 1971 NYT interview, my father had railed against Nixon and "the scurrilous persecution of Helen Gahagan Douglas.”
A Google search turned up Helen Gahagan Dougles Online, which includes this:
She served in the House for three terms until 1950, when she sought the Senate seat held by Sheridan Downey.AHA!!!
After a particularly nasty primary she faced Republican Congressman Richard Nixon in the general election. The campaign was destined to be one of the nation's most famous--and infamous. Nixon, waging an inspiring red-baiting campaign, was unrelenting in his charges. If he never actually called her a communist, saying she was "pink right down to her underwear" was not a fashion critique. His legions were yet less restrained. Murray Chotiner, Nixon's campaign manager, printed an infamous flyer that was handed out at rallies. Printed on pink paper (and, thus, forever known as the "pink sheet"), it more than implied a connection between Douglas and communism.