McCarthy Trials (Late 1940s- Early 1950s)

written by Emily
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The Washington Post Times Herald;1954;2/13/07;www.c-span.org/ special/mccarthy.asp

"I have here in my hand a list of 205 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, and who, nevertheless, are ll working and shaping the policy of the State Department." - Joseph McCarthy Feb. 9, 1950


McCarthy started his mad spread of the fear of Communism in front of the Republican Women's Club on February 9, 1950, in Wheeling, West Virginia. He publicly accused 205 members of the United States government of being Communists, without any evidence except a paper holding the names of those “guilty.” Communism was already a growing concern in the United States. McCarthy knew this and used it to attract attention to him.

The Democrats expected that the Republicans would go along with and agree with what McCarthy was doing. They knew that the Republicans would most likely use “Communists-in-government” as an issue in the upcoming 1952 election. However, the Democrats controlled Congress at the time and saw McCarthy’s accusations as a chance to bring down both McCarthy and the issue of “Communists-in-government”. Many Democratic senators, including Scott Lucas, set up a committee to investigate the charges made by McCarthy. The chairman of this committee was Millard Tydings, an influential Maryland senator. This “investigation” committee, soon to be the Tydings Committee, was what was going to help lose McCarthy thousands of supporters and fans.

McCarthy’s first hearing, held in Washington D.C., ended in disaster for him. Not only did Tydings insist on public hearings, disregarding what McCarthy wanted, but he also continuously interrupted and questioned McCarthy during his opening speech. On March 30, 1950, during a hearing accusing Owen Lattimore, McCarthy came out with no evidence. Even one of his strongest followers said that he had “gone out on a limb and made a complete fool of himself.” It had seemed that McCarthy was starting to be questioned. He was beginning to be thought of as a fake, until, he came up with a surprise witness for the Lattimore hearing. Louis Bundez, previous editor of the Communist party newspaper The Daily Worker, testified that Lattimore belonged to a Communist group that was part of an important research institute. Even though most of Bundez's information was based on gossip not facts, the public started to gain more interest and trust in McCarthy.

Why did America believe what McCarthy was saying without any evidence that those accused were in fact Communists or even pro-Communists? The answer is very simple. During the time McCarthy was making his accusations, the United States was going through the period called the Cold War. This included the Korean War, which had started a fire in many of the U.S. civilians. We had also witnessed the Communist invasion in China not to mention the conviction of several Americans as Soviet spies. It was surprising but not difficult for the people to believe that there were Communists in their government.

McCarthy’s reign of power soon came to an end in the nationally televised hearing in 1954, when McCarthy tried to accuse the U.S. Army of “coddling Communists.” Counter charges were made against McCarthy of inappropriate behavior by some of his staff. These trials helped McCarthy lose the support of millions of people. Later that year the Senate condemned him for his inappropriate conduct toward one subcommittee investigating his finances, and for his mistreatment of a committee that recommended he be censured. As a result, McCarthy lost basically all his followers and his power and his influence shrank dramatically.

McCarthy’s insane and unethical methods and accusations had a gigantic impact on the lives of many Americans in the mid-1950s. He brought the fear of Communism in our country to new heights when he claimed that the U.S. government was ridden with Communists or pro-Communists. People stopped trusting the rulers of the country and had nowhere else to turn. McCarthy’s cruel and unjust ways ruined the careers of many American officials even though no one was actually found guilty. Over 200 hundred members of the United States government will forever remember being accused of treason against their country.
**Citations for Information (Emily)**