The show trials of the 1936 to 1938 period were widely denounced throughout western Europe and the United States. There was formed an international inquiry to exonerate Trotsky, sometimes called the "Dewey Commission." This board made highly publicized reports documenting the falsification of the evidence and unsubstantiated allegations made in the Vyshinsky prosecution. Counter-Stalinist responses were given wide publicity, not just as editorials, but as news. For example, when Trotsky wrote an open letter from exile in Norway claiming that Lenin's widow privately denounced Stalin as "without honor" and immoral, this was widely published as news.
In the United States, although some public leaders like Roosevelt and his followers made no statements against Stalin, many others routinely condemned both the murderous policies of Stalin against the Soviet people, and his vicious oppression of opposition to his rule. For example, in 1938 Herbert Hoover, the former president, gave a speech the theme of which was the following:
A score of democracies have sunk since the war and armed dictatorships
have risen in their place. They proclaim new ideologies of economic
security to sanctify their personal power. They live by terror and
brutality. -- Herbert Hoover, in Toronto, November 22, 1938
Wide publicity was given to anti-Stalinist figures such as Alexander Kerensky, the former chair of the Russian provisional government, who spoke frequently in front of gatherings and crowds. In one interview in 1938 he said:
The common hatred of Stalin is tremendous... his game is contradictory
and hopeless. He seeks to divert the wrath of the Russian people from
himself by branding all the other Bolshevik leaders as traitors. [It
should be obvious to all] including even the most ardent apologists
for Bolshevism, [that what we are now witnessing] is the moral
bankruptcy of Bolshevism."
-- Alexander Kerensky, New York City, March 3, 1938
In general, the purge trials were met with disbelief in the west and characterized as biased and politically motivated.