Televised Hearings of US Senate

April 22, 2022

On April 22, 1954, McCarthy’s Senate hearings on the U.S. Army began. They were televised. They did not provide the proof that McCarthy promised of the Army being a hotbed of communist traitors. Instead, they demonstrated to the world that McCarthy was a grandstanding showboater who was willing to ruin people’s lives and tarnish the respectability of the Senate in his quest for personal power.

McCarthy got started on his quest for power just four years earlier, in 1950, when he gained national attention for claiming that there were more than 200 known communists in the Department of State. Because of the ongoing Cold War with the communist Soviet Union, this caused some alarm, and he was quickly granted the power to investigate the Department of State, and then the CIA, other government agencies, and even Hollywood. He slung wild accusations without evidence and ruined a lot of people’s lives, often by getting them “black-balled” from ever holding a job again. He destroyed critics and political opponents by the simple expedient of accusing them of being communist sympathizers.

It is probably not very surprising that he made a lot of enemies this way, and by 1953, his political allies began deserting him, leaving him to run all of the investigations alone. Drunk on his own power, he thought that highly public, televised hearings of his investigation of the Army for harboring communists would restore his influence. In fact, it did the opposite.

After weeks of a total circus of a hearing, the Army’s chief counsel Joseph Welch responded to one of McCarthy’s vicious slanders with the now-famous line, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” The audience erupted into applause. McCarthy’s credibility and power were thoroughly destroyed. He died three years later of alcoholism.

4 Comments

  1. Kenneth Weinstein

    It appears that a “herd mentality” has not lost its prominence in our national character, sad to say. Will we ever learn from our mistakes ? It seems not ! How different does our Congress behave now?

    Reply
  2. Denis

    History is so interesting and enlightening! What about the Venona Papers released by an NY Judge (50) years following the hearings which exonerated McCarthy after it was leaned in time that ALL of those previously suspected by McCarthy to be spies were eventually discovered to be just that: “SPIES.” Each and all of these individuals were either imprisoned for espionage and/or kicked out of the country with threats that if they ever returned, they would each be sent to prison with lifetime sentences!

    Perhaps next time, you’ll tell “the rest of the story.”

    Reply
  3. David Baker

    Mistakenly, I came here to learn history.

    Unfortunately, all I found was a fact-free series of ad hominem attacks on the man.

    Reply
  4. Harry

    As many years have passed It seems that McCarthy was right in many cases in that some in the Media and Hollywood were blackballed, admitted their guilt and now have wormed their way back into our communications outlets and clearly demonstrate their communistic philosophy. There are too many to spefically name, but I would like to name two, such as Jane Fonda and AOC, a Puerto Rican who has no right to represent the American people. I must remind the American people that the Puerto Rican people have consistently voted not to be part of America, because they don’t want to pay the taxes due to America. They just want to be the parasites that they are and get all the benifites of being a so called American citizen. View the famous movie WEST SIDE STORY with a juantice eye and listen carefully. It’s time to cut them loose.

    Reply

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