My civics teacher at Pineville High School in Pineville, Louisiana required us to write book reports.
My choice was Senator Joe McCarthy written by Richard H. Rovere. At the time I read it I pictured McCarthy as an anti-communist hero but later learned he was making ridiculous charges that couldn’t be backed up.
Claimed 205 Communists In State Department
He claimed that 205 employees of the State department were Communists and were still employed there when he made his speech in Wheeling, West Virgina to the Republican Women’s Club in 1950.
His speech came at a time when the American public was concerned about many events that foreshadowed an increasing presence of Communism in the world.
McCarthy lowered his number of Communists to 81 and 57. His changing of the numbers made his attacks a lot less credible.
Senator Millard Tydings convened the Tydings Committee to investigate the charges of McCarthy. The final report of the committee said that McCarthy’s charges were a fraud and a hoax.
Voted Along Party Lines
The voting to accept the report was done three times and each time the vote was according to party lines. McCarthy charged that Senator Tydings was protecting Communists and shielding traitors.
Despite the controversy caused by McCarthy’s charges he was re-elected to the Senate in 1952 by a 139,002 vote margin.
He physically assaulted columnist Drew Pearson by kneeing him in the groin but when admitting he had assaulted him said he had slapped Pearson.
Truman Said McCarthy Friend Of Kremlin
McCarthy did not get along well with President Harry Truman and said the Democrats had presided over 20 years of treason. Truman retaliated by saying that McCarthy was the best friend the Kremlin had.
Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. the patriarch of the Kennedy family was a close friend of McCarthy and was the godfather of Robert Kennedy’s first child Kathleen.
President John F. Kennedy never was critical of McCarthy because he said half the voters in Massachusetts liked McCarthy.
Eisenhower Didn’t Approve of His Methods
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower took office in 1954 he said he didn’t like the methods McCarthy was using and McCarthy now claimed there had been 21 years of treason including the first year Eisenhower was in office.
McCarthy launched an investigation in the fall of 1953 into the communist influences in the Army in that eventually led to the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.
When Brigadier General Ralph W. Zwicker testified before the committee McCarthy claimed that Zwicker had the intelligence of a five year old and was not fit to wear a uniform.
Army – McCarthy Hearings Hurt His Reputation
When the Army-McCarthy hearings convened in 1954 it was shown on live television. The committee was attempting to prove that McCarthy and his counsel Roy Cohn had tried to persuade the Army to give favorable treatment to David Schine who had been an aide to McCarthy.
Once the American people saw McCarthy on live television his popularity waned and the Gallup poll showed his 50 percent popular opinion in January of 1954 had fallen to 34 percent in June.
When McCarthy attacked Fred Fisher an employee in the office of Joseph Welch the chief in the law office of Welch it caused Welch to make this following statement:
Robert Welch defending an employee who had been attacked by Senator McCarthy.
Edward R. Murrow who detested the tactics of McCarthy addresses the situation on March 9, 1954.
When the Senate voted on a resolution to censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954 the senators voted 67-22 to condemn McCarthy.
McCarthy continued to serve in the Senate for another two and a half years but was a powerless figure who was ignored by the press for the most part and President Eisenhower said that it was no longer McCarthyism but was now McCarthywasm.
McCarthy Dies At 48
McCarthy died on May 2, 1957 at the age of 48 and the cause of death was noted as hepatitis from inflammation of the liver. Most observers who knew of his drinking problem knew that alcoholism was the main cause of his death.
His death reminded us of lies to make a name for himself but when it came time to prove those lies were truth he couldn’t backup his allegations.