The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy

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Much of this info comes from M. Stanton Evans painstakingly documented 600 page book: "The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His fight Against America's Enemies". Though, over the years, I've read quite a few other books, snippets and articles on McCarthy, or the other scandals and players named, Stan's book is one of the best collections of all the data in one place. While it's long, I can't recommend it enough, if you have interest in the technical details of what went on around McCarthy and the Truman/Eisenhower administrations, and want to dive into any of these topics more, it's in there.

The Narrative

McCarthyism is remembered as a mean-guy, who started an evil witch-hunt to bully and ruin the lives of innocent people (based on scant evidence) by preying on the gullibility of red-scare paranoia. The whole thing was made up, and it all blew over once people realized McCarthy was a fraud.

All the standard "talking points" are either invention, exaggeration of falsehood. Even the term "McCarthyism" was invented by the Communist newspaper the Daily Worker, as a propaganda smear campaign to stop the pressure on the communist spies and sympathizers in government. The success of this faux history is evidence of how big the problem was, and how right McCarthy was.

We know the truth because because throughout the 1990’s a few things happened:

  • The Soviet Union and their Satellite Countries collapsed, which freed up reams of documentation on what they had been doing (who was on their payroll)
  • The Freedom of information act (FOI) meant that the FBI, State Dept., Military and other government agencies were forced to open up what was left of their files.
  • Some of that information included the Venona decrypts (our Army Signal Intelligence Service, now called the NSA), decrypted the soviet intelligence agencies communications.
  • We can also see communications between the Truman and Tydings, or the Eisenhower administration, and so on.

The Truth

The provable facts are all pretty much the exact opposite of the narrative most can regurgitate:

  • Starting in the 1930’s, there had been a real Soviet Communist infiltration at all levels of the FDR (and Truman) administrations: military, diplomatic (State Dept.), civil service, unions, entertainment, academia and so on. This did real damage, and included multiple scandals (Amerasia, Marshall mission), spies getting caught (Alger Hiss), and geopolitical disasters including the fall of China to the Communists, Yugoslavia to Tito/Russians, our Manhattan project Nuclear Secrets escaping to the Russians (and them getting the A-bomb years earlier than expected), the Korean war which also planted the seeds for the Vietnam war. The cold war was never that cold. The Communists had been dismissed as, "harmless crackpots" (to quote Elanor Roosevelt), but now they were recognized as radical fanatics, with Nuclear Weapons and who had casually murder at least 60M people (20M Stalin, 40M Mao), with designs on world domination, and they were just getting started. People's eye's were opening, and they didn't like what they saw.
  • OWI (Office of War Information) ran Voice of America (American Propaganda), during the war there were a few scandals where it got caught broadcasting pro-Communist propaganda to many countries. After the war it was absorbed into State (including those Soviet agents).
  • The public was only partly aware of what was going on in the 30’s and 40’s, but they knew was enough to raise real concerns and lead to the creation of the Democrat Controlled House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1938. This lead to the New laws and regulations (1946 McCarran Rider, and so on), and the House Democrat controlled Dies committee investigation and their tip-of-the-iceberg report claiming that communism was pervasive, including in Hollywood (it was). Hollywood responded by creating the Hollywood Blacklist. Bad behavior in those agencies predates McCarthy by up to 12 years and was completely controlled by the Democrats.
  • The FBI and Military Intelligence had starting following people in the early 40's investigations led to a more and more complex web of systematic compromise of State, OSS (CIA) and OWI (Air America), and they were trying to purge the real and wide infiltration. Hoover (FBI) sent reports to 370 different departments (including Truman, many times) on how widespread the problems were. Instead of responding, the Administration had been blocking and classifying the reports to try to suppress the PR damage (while letting the espionage damage continue).
  • Starting in 1945 the State/Administration had done investigations in response the FBI’s claims, and created the Lee List which had 57 people with direct ties to USSR, and 284 suspects. But they were illegally suppressing this from the Senate and public.
  • In 1950, in came Joe McCarthy: a Junior Senator, from the minority party, who was given internal records from the State Dept and FBI. His Wheeling speech that started all this said that (a) he had this list of known suspects (b) that State and the Administration had been suppressing the information (from HUAC, the Senate and the public) for many YEARS, while letting those spies remain on the payrol (or quietly exiting them to other government agencies, or the U.N.) Joe risked (and ultimately ruined his career) trying to expose the cover-up of this information — and demanding an investigation INTO THE COVERUP! (Joe was the Edward Snowden of his day, if Edward had tried to fix the process from within). Joe wasn’t going after the communists directly and said so, 'I'm not an investigator, that's not my job', he was going after the administration that was failing to do their job and fire them, or for failing to share the information (threats) as was required by law.
  • Since administration couldn’t defend against their screw-ups with the infiltrations, or the failure to purge the spies, or the coverups they’d been doing to hide this info from the public or government investigations —they did the only thing they could do: distract and crucify the messenger.

Thus the Truman Administration conspired and coordinated with the State Dept. and Senator Tydings (in secret meetings) to create the "Tydings Committee” under the auspices of investigating whether there were communists spies, had the State failed to fire them, had the administration been doing a conspiracy/coverup. But instead, they put Joe McCarthy on trial, they demanded he publicly name the communists so they could acquit them, then blame Joe for making it all up. They knew his list was real, since it come from the State Dept., but they considered McCarthy a bigger threat to their political futures than their failure to get rid of the real spies they knew about.

Remember, it was the Democrat controlled Senate that demanded he publicly name people on the list, then they demanded he prove their guilt (without providing him the detailed folders the State or FBI had on them), then they attacked him for irresponsibly releasing the names, or played numbers games as a distraction. The committee took the role of defense lawyers for the accused, took the accused's claims as gospel (did no investigation), and instead of investigating why the State had suppressed the information (and the guilty hadn’t been fired), they used presumed innocence as an excuse to censure Joe for recklessly naming the names that they demanded him to name, all as a way to shut down any further embarrassment to the government/administration (of a very real threat).

With the benefit of hindsight, and many declassified documents from the US and USSR, we know that:

  1. most of Joe's specific claims did turn out to be correct: the people named WERE named by State and the FBI as suspects
  2. many later showed up as either paid soviet agents, collaborators, or sympathizers of those agents/causes (there was good reason for them being suspects)
  3. Not that it mattered, since his point was the coverup and suppression of information. And we know that not only had that happened, but they had committed criminal conspiracy to collaborate on discrediting Joe McCarthy to coverup the coverup
  4. More importantly, Joe's broader claims of a vast network that threatening our institutions was undeniable

The administration had failed miserably. Covered that up. Conspired to attack anyone that exposed that failure (McCarthy, Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley), even if they were trying to help National Security. Joe's biggest mistake was in underestimating its breadth and influence: as proven by how they ruined him, his reputation and rewrote history to the point where most people don’t even remember what it was about.

McCarthyism should mean a man taking on a conspiracy and coverup bigger than you are, and being destroyed by it. The fact that McCarthyism means making false claims instead of valid ones, shows how right Joe was and successful the conspiracy was. It also shows that McCarthy's enemies (Truman, State Dept., Murrow, etc), did all the things they accused him of: destroying innocent people’s reputations in a witch-hunt to make up for their own inadequacies.

What happened before McCarthy and Wheeling?

McCarthy was a very smart (had an almost eidetic memory), who believed study and hard work was the keys to his success: he completed 4 years of High School in 9 months. Then went on to become a lawyer. Then the youngest Judge in Wisconsin history (with a short but accomplished tenure). Then went on to become the youngest Senator (age 38) by beating out a famous established legacy Senator though hard campaigning. He believed in outworking the opposition. You may not like his style, but he always did his homework: he just wasn't the type to let an injustice or crime (like espionage) go unchallenged.

You have to understand the environment before McCarthy ever came to the Senate, and why he had any traction. How could one man scare the nation into being stupid/paranoid, without any evidence? Of course the answer is there was a reason the nation was already concerned, which is why he got traction. There had been gross incompetence, cover-ups, many bad events, promises to remedy the issues, and they’d only gotten worse, for 20+ years. Here's what happened before McCarthy's Wheeling speech:

  • The "red menace" had been growing in power and concerns in the U.S., starting with the progressives under Wilson. But the Great Depression in 1929, had really kicked it into high gear. WWII government expansion gave many more opportunities to penetrate positions of power. The Soviet documents tell us the GRU and NKVD had over 400 directly paid spies, with other collaborators knowing and unknowing (Stalin referred the latter as “useful idiots”).
  • The first stories of infiltrations had been leaking since the 1930's, (hence the creation of HUAC), and they had infiltrated the military, diplomatic (State Dept.), civil service, unions, entertainment, academia and so on. And many scandals kept leaking out making anyone paying attention very nervous. This is why McCarthy was sometimes called "the second red scare", because the first one never got resolved.
  • 09/02/1939, former Communist Whittaker Chambers provided Assistant Secretary of State Adolph Berle (and FDR) with a list of dozens of Communist spies in the government, including Alger Hiss. FDR laughed it off and promoted Hiss to be his personal advisor, and has the report buried. The FBI took Chambers claims seriously, and did follow-ups in 1942 and June 1945, and his information proved accurate and valuable. You can read about the extent of the problem in Chambers own book, Witness.
  • From about 1943 on, we recognized that the cold war was starting (the Soviets were positioning themselves for a post-war empire). Most knew that Stalin was going to keep his conquests, Patton was screaming about it until he conveniently died, and other countries were dropping to communism, with our State Depts. help. This lead many sub-scandals including Amerasia Affair, Marshall Mission, not opposing Josip Tito (Yugoslavia) or supporting Chiang Kai-shek (China), and so on. If there wasn't a grand conspiracy, there was gross incompetence, or incredible luck working in communisms favor.
  • Amerasia Affair (1945) - a small communist supported Journal founded in 1938 that was caught publishing pro-communist reports that had been generated by the U.S. State Dept. for internal use. The FBI investigation found hundred of highly classified and blatantly pro-Soviet documents written under the guidance or authorship of the China Hands" (John Service, Owen Lattimore, and other compromised individuals at State Dept). They had been helping Amerasia get those documents (from State, the Navy, and the OSS), to manipulate public, just as they had been manipulating the administration during and after WWII. This contributed to China’s fall (Marshall's positions). Once this was discovered, the State Dept. and the Truman administration suppressed the severity of this: the DOJ and the Attorney General got most charges dismissed (the criminals let off) to try to keep the mess as covered up and inconsequential as possible.
  • 1945 George Marshall had gone over to “help” with China/Korea which became the Marshall Mission fiasco, "one of the greatest blunders in American diplomatic history". Marshall had embargoed weapons to Chiang Kai-shek and forced him to negotiate with Chinese Communists (Chicoms) for 2 years, after the Chicoms had been Japanese collaborators (and thus hadn’t fought and been weakened by the Japanese). The Chicoms used this time to collect Japanese and Russian supplies and territory, gain public support, train, and prepare for the the conflict when talks broke down in 1947. By 10/1/1949 China fell completely to the Communists thanks to Marshall’s delays.
  • 1946, a State Department official (Samuel Klaus), drafted a 106-page confidential memo about grave security problems plaguing State Dept. The memo mentioned 33 Soviet agents (including Alger Hiss) and 90 staffers on the Dept. of State payroll. While this was later entered into the public record, and was delivered to Tydings for the official record, all copies have since disappeared.
  • 1946 McCarran rider: after the Amerasia fiasco at State, congress attached the McCarran Rider to appropriation bills, giving the Secretary of State “absolute discretion” to terminate any Department employee if it was deemed “necessary or advisable in the interests of the United States.” Suspect of subversive activities could be fired, and the employee could not appeal the decision to the Civil Service Commission. Truman did an executive order undermining it, and State Dept. virtually ignored the rider. Congress never realized the law they created wasn't being followed (and subversives weren't getting removed).
  • 1947 The FBI had some information on the breadth of the spies and had sent 370 reports to the White House, and many other agencies, that these collaborators and spies needed to be removed. The FBI was pushing every button and ringing every klaxon they could. They had been following, tapping and tracking spies, and there were hundreds in government, but especially at State Dept.
  • 1948 Truman made an Executive order that none of the FBI's information could be shared with Congress (or the public), and the State dept. felt firings would expose their embarrassments. So they glacially started a program to encourage a few known spies to resign: allowing many security threats to keep their jobs, and others to go to other government posts. This was part of the coverup that got Joe McCarthy so incensed!
  • 1948 Lee List - a report was created by an ex-FBI agent Robert E. Lee on the spies and holes in security at the state department, that had subsequently been passed on to the HUAC. This "Lee List" was more than just a list of names, it explained some backgrounds, relationships to others, details about failures of policy and cover-ups (suppression of information, or not cleaning out known communists).
  • 1948 Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley are called before HUAC, and names Alger Hiss (again) as being a Soviet Spy (9 years after he first told the FDR Administration the same thing), and the crisis and trial goes on for 2 years before his conviction. Dean Acheson (Secretary of State) came to the defense of Hiss, and attacked Chambers and Bentley for exposing Hiss.
  • 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift, where the soviets had done a military blockade to try to force us to give them control of West Berlin.
  • 1949 Soviets demonstrate that they had the Nuclear Bomb (5 years before the U.S. thought they would get it), everyone felt this was due to spying.
  • 1945-1950 Korea had been divided along the 38th parallel (Japan had controlled the South, Soviets the north), after the war the U.S. took over South. Both sides agreeing to leave in a few years. As soon as we left, the North invaded (with Russia's help), and the Cold War turned hot. Stalin felt that if America let China fall to the Communists, then we wouldn’t help the less strategically important South Koreans. They were wrong. China had woken the American public to the threat, even Truman couldn't ignore it any further.
  • 1949, 1950 Hiss is convicted of perjury (on claiming to NOT be a spy, because the statute of limitation had run out on the espionage charges).
  • 1949 (fall), three men (never named) brought to McCarthy's office (and 3 other senators) a 106-page FBI report (Klaus Memo) alleging extensive communist penetration of the State Department. Only a handful of these folks had been removed over the intervening 4 years. They asked the Senators to awaken the American people to this dangerous situation. Only McCarthy was willing to take on this volatile project.
  • February 9, 1950 - After months researching the 4 year old Klaus memo, interviewed informants (at the FBI and/or State?), and McCarthy got ahold of the Lee List, he realized how bad things were: a bunch of known communists were still working for State (many years after they were discovered), and there was a cover-up going on. So he made his infamous Wheeling Speech AFTER all the prior events had already happened, about the cover-up, and his speech touched a nerve in the public and set off a firestorm.

The public didn't fully understand the causes yet, but they understood and paid attention to the consequences as 40M Chinese people died in the aftermath of Mao, Korea was turning hot, since 1938 many events were triggering investigations by HUAC. And while the media wasn't delivering the full picture, there were a lot of pieces that were making the public rightfully nervous. All these important people were turning up as Communists and had been undermining our society. Joe McCarthy hadn't caused the second Red Scare, he was just finally the voice of the people: stop letting the fox guard the henhouse.

What happened at Wheeling?

McCarthy was given the State Depts. internal report (Lee List), which said there were many known communists still working at state, and the 4 years since the Lee List was compiled, no one had been fired (and few had been convinced to resign, and most got other jobs in Government or the U.N.). The news had been suppressed by the Truman administration, and no one was talking about it. So as part of a Lincoln Day (weekend) tour, Joe McCarthy gave a speech in Wheeling, WV (1950) and blew the whistle on this. He said he had a list of 57 names that, "would appear to be either card carrying members or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy" in the State Department (along with as many as 205 total). And most importantly a coverup had allowed them to continue to work in State or the Government, and continued access to our national secrets.

All of those were facts that have been later proven true.

NOTE: McCarthy did some extensive research on this, and had some inside informants, and other reports, as well as original research. McCarthy's was eventually required to give about 124 names, about 2/3rd (81) had come from the Lee List (which leaves like 43 or so that he'd come up with by other means). While he had mentioned 57 names (as had the Lee list), 10 of his names were different from the Lee List names, because 10 of the Lee List people had left state and gone on to work elsewhere, and McCarthy had discovered at least 10 others (or gotten their names through other means).

What's in a number?

The State Dept., Tydings Committee and Truman administration couldn't contest the facts, so they attacked and distracted on everything they could: Joe's rhetorical style, defended the named spies to discredit McCarthy, and mostly tried to discredit him based on the number count -- and tried to make the trail about that instead. If Joe couldn't be trusted on the numbers, then he could be attacked for perjury.

Their coordinated campaign agains Joe included:

  • Joe had provided a preliminary draft of his speech to the Wheeling Intelligencer (local paper) that included, "he had a list of 205 spies". The Newspaper (Frank Desmond) published based on his erroneous notes (there had a few other mistakes in the draft that were corrected in his live speech as well), which the AP picked up. But it is NOT what he actually said at the event. Many "historians" find that misprint and quote that 205 number, then use that as proof of Joe's exaggerations.
  • McCarthy had continued the same speech over the next few days at Denver(Colorado), Reno (Nevada), Salt Lake City (Utah), and in Idaho. All of them reported he'd said the 57 number. There was taped audio recordings of the SLC speech, where he says, "last night, I spoke of 57 card carrying communist", and continued in that vein. McCarthy and most other witnesses at Wheeling agreed he'd said 57 as the list of names (and 205 for potential total spy count).
  • The only person that took notes of the speech, had "57 CC" (for card-carrying communists).
  • The Editor of the paper (Herman Gieske, who also attended the speech) wrote the paper’s editorial, stating that McCarthy had spoken of “over 50 persons of known Communist affiliations still sheltered in the U.S. Department of State.”
  • The Administration went after Joe for perjury for claiming he'd only said, "57" when it was obvious he'd originally said 205. Their bases was that (Desmond) claimed he'd read the speech from his notes verbatim (and thus the 205 number). But his staffers said the notes delivered were preliminary at the time, they had been corrected, and all witnesses at the event said McCarthy was speaking mostly extemporaneously (and only occasionally glancing at his notes), making Desmond's testimony even less credible. Most remembered a couple numbers, including 50-something.
  • There was a taped recording by the local Radio Station, but when McCarthy went to recover it, it had been erased.
  • All copies of the Newspaper from the time seem to have disappeared, so you can't find Herman Gieske's editorial.
  • McCarthy offered a reward in the local paper for anyone that had a taped copy of the meeting, to prove his point, but no one came forward. A ballsy move if they were just going to prove him wrong.

Thus there's never been hard evidence that McCarthy said 205 in the context that Desmond claimed, pretty scant evidence to warrant a perjury charge (and censure). Any historian that quotes that number, without giving the evidence for 57, demonstrates their sloth or bias.

If Joe did slip on his numbers (and all the witnesses and him were wrong), then it doesn't matter much anyways, because he'd corrected the record by the next day and far the next few years claimed it was only 57 -- meaning this whole attack on him intentionally misleading the public never of any merit. This was smoke and mirrors to distract from the real problem which was the administration covering for State, which had botched security, and resulted in many Americans dead. (Think of it as Truman's Benghazi Moment).

While all the other government agencies had found and removed dozens of communists from their ranks since the problem was first identified, State was bragging that they had, "found no communists" with their review boards: as if that demonstrated their competence, instead of incompetence. Other agencies mocked State for being a nest of communism, and being unable to find any. They had quietly encouraged about 10 to resign (such as Alger Hiss), but that meant there was no black mark on their record and they were free to move to other government agencies with their clearances in-tact, but the gross majority on the Lee List, were still there (as McCarthy had said). State and the Administration knew McCarthy's charges were true: the State had many known communists they had failed to fire (as the 1946 McCarran Rider empowered them to do).

What happened at Tydings?

If the Senate wanted to check the veracity of Joe's claims, they just had to see how many of Joe's names were still at State (or working for other agencies of the government) -- and it would have been a quick comparison. But that would have proved Joe McCarthy's claims were correct, and the State and Truman had screwed up.

Knowing all this, the Administration, State and Senate needed a response. And it couldn't be about getting to the bottom of things. Thus the Truman Administration had secret meetings and communiques to coordinate their attacks with the State Dept. and Senator Tydings (described as a sanctimonious segregationist) to create the "Tydings Committee” with the intent of changing the topic to be about Joe McCarthy, instead of his claims. The only defense they had wasn't on his facts, they had to attack his methods (as a distraction). Even the term "McCarthyism" was invented by the Communist newspaper the Daily Worker, as a propaganda smear campaign to stop the pressure on the communist spies and sympathizers in government, and they jumped on that.

The Tydings Committee was created officially to, "conduct a full and complete study and investigation as to whether persons who are disloyal to the United States are, or have been, employed by the Department of State." e.g. (1) were there known spies (2) had the State failed to fire them (3) had the administration been doing a conspiracy/coverup. But instead they put Joe McCarthy on trial, demanded he publicly name the communists (so they could acquit them) and then blame Joe for making it all up. Tydings knew Joe's list was real, since it come from the State Dept., but they considered McCarthy a bigger threat to their political futures than the real spies they knew about.

Over the course of the show trial, Tydings and klatch did everything they could to play the role of defense lawyers for the accused, taking their word for everything. They attacked and interrupted McCarthy hundreds of times, picked nits, distracted: they wanted his sources (so they could plug the leaks). And alternated between claiming Joe was making it all up, then admitting it came from an internal memo at State, but was old/stale information, and because no one had been fired, it was proof that there was no problem. The Truman administration made State to give them all the personnel files, and had them scrubbed and wouldn't give them to the Senate (or let them bring experts to analyze them), and so on. Thus there was no investigation into the spies themselves, only Joe's ability to prove that they were spies: which was never his point. His point was that State had a list (they did), hadn't adequately investigated and fired people on that list (they had not), and there was a coverup going on (as the Tydings, Administration and State, all proved).

To compound all this, many official documents on this (that are supposed to be controlled) and that were sympathetic to Joe's side or against the Administration, seem to have gone missing over the years, including:

  • Wheeling library has all editions of the Wheeling Intelligencer (where first McCarthy speech happened), going back to the 19th Century. They were microfilmed,except for two months: January and February, 1950. The two biggest news months in the cities history.
  • The Library of Congress also only chose to archive the Wheeling Intelligencer back to 1952
  • Klaus Memo which McCarthy entered into the record. Tydings had an "analysis" inserted as a forward (the Peurifoy Memo), that contradicted what the actual report said, then the Peurifoy memo was saved in the record and then all copies of the Klaus Memo have been "lost".
  • Two dozen other documents "from the State Department related to security matters," on this topic are also missing
  • Depositions from four past and present employees of State said in regards to people McCarthy had named, "We were instructed to remove all derogatory material from the personnel files and we were instructed to dispose of this material." As one of them put it, "All of the clerks on the project were to pull out of the files all materials considered derogatory, either morally or politically. The [data] I pulled out of the files pertained to either the morals of the person or in some way reflected on his or her loyalty." (That was before State gave the records to Truman, who had them sanitized again).
  • Then the dossiers and evidence on the 205 folks were transferred to the White House got "lost", and even in their scrubbed forms, never appeared in the national archives
  • Henry Cabot Lodge made comments toward the end of the Tydings hearings that outlined and listed a series of questions that had not been answered, many significant topics had not been covered, or had been swept under the rug in Tydings' "probe." These 35 pages of stenographic record in the final hearing were missing. This caused a big fight in the Senate sub-committee. They were eventually found and added them back in, but the fact that they and other key documents kept disappearing was very Stalinesque.
  • There was also a false anti-McCarthy quote attributed to Senator Kenneth Wherry (included by Edward Morgan), that Wherry never made. This started a shoving match between the two, over not bothering to check with Wherry before including a "quote" in the report.
  • McCarthy's own investigating subcommittee (which he chaired), documentation from 1953-1955, is all missing.

What happened with the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

In 1953 we got a Republican Senate, Joe had won reelection, and the Communist in our midst was still a problem. So Joe McCarthy was given his own committee: the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, to see if he could continue to root out problems. Eisenhower was no fan. Especially as Joe turned to problems in the Army. The Rosenberg spy ring in the Army Signal Corps Intelligence Agency (SCIA) had been outted, and the Rosenberg's quickly put to death (before they could reveal anything else embarrassing) and for helping the Russians gain many secrets. The Army and administration wanted the issue "put to bed", justice had been served. But the truth was they were the tip of the iceberg.

While the Administration wasn't going to do the mundane follow-on work, McCarthy was. He exposed how much broader and deeper things had run at Ft. Monmouth and at Camp Kilmer with the SCIA infiltrations. Since he was dragging the Army's name through the mud, Ike went from silent opponent of McCarthy to outright adversary, and worked to undermine him. Ike's opponents often criticize him for not doing more to hurt McCarthy, but the truth is there's little he could have done to help McCarthy less.

Naming names

Common claims or attacks against McCarthy invented by the Communists, Sympathizers or the Administration (sometimes it's hard to differentiate which) are either:

  • (A) He never exposed Communists or Communist activity
  • (B) All the names he had were warmed over and long known about (and cleared)
  • (C) ...and thus he dragged innocent people's reputations through the mud
  • (D) ... and ruined their lives.

All of these are false, and somewhat contradictory.

The facts are the people he named were at either spies or associates and helpers of spies and spy rings (useful idiots). And most of their lives hadn't been ruined: that was the point. The senator's primary claim was not that he had found Communists who had never before been accused of being Communist, but rather that despite them being accused of being communists, and having the McCarran Rider which allowed them to be dismissed, the threat to security was being ignored, covered up, and they were still employed in places where they could do more damage. We just don't have examples of innocent people's lives being ruined because of McCarthy. Ask the other side to provide a list of names, and trace back who accused them of being communists, and whether they were or not.

We do have many examples of abuse because of HUAC (the Democrat controlled House) or Hollywood Blacklists (in response to the Democrat controlled HUAC). But that stuff happened mostly in the decade before McCarthy and thus had nothing to do with him. Democrats have revised history to say, "it's all his fault", or else someone might notice that they behaved worse on both sides of the issue: both in attacking and ruining innocents, and in obstructing justice for political gains.

  • Lavender Scare: Many confuse "guilty by association" with McCarthy, but that was the standard of the day, set by society (decades before he took office), he was just trying to make sure the government was playing above board with the standard of the time. It got uglier with the Lavender Scare (associating homosexuals with communists). What had happened is several closeted homosexuals employed by the US federal government had been convinced to pass on important government secrets, in exchange for keeping their sexual proclivities a secret. This started the scare that Homosexuals (and other sexual deviancies) were considered to be more susceptible to blackmail, and thus were a security risk. Again this started many years before McCarthy (with HUAC, Hollywood Blacklists, etc), but McCarthy bought into this and searched for gays as ruthlessly as he did communists, or as he so indelicately put it, "you have nothing to fear from Joe McCarthy, unless you're a cocksucker or a communist". Truman, Eisenhower administrations, FBI, and the State Dept. were also ruthless and enthusiastic supporters of these purges, and never complained about any of McCarthy's tactics when targeting gays, just communists. In fact, Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 banning gays from government work and military to make it easier to fire them. Enacting the policies was always on the individual departments and the administration: Joe just exposed that people were being kept on despite the legal requirements (and thus security threats they posed). Ironically, one of McCarthy's helpers, Roy Cohn was a closeted gay. Rumors of J. Edgar Hoover being a gay cross-dresser were started by the far left without any evidentiary merit.

The Senate (Tydings) demanded McCarthy give them a list of names. Always an over-acheiver, Joe gave them a list of 67 (not 57) people with ties to the communist party or sympathizers, and 124 total names of suspects (more than the 105). After Tydings ended, of the 110 names he mentioned that were still at the State Dept (showing that the list wasn't that stale as only 14 had left), 81 of those folks were either dismissed or resigned in the following years during follow-up investigations. In the decade in the 5 years before that, only 10 had been removed. Either the State Dept. decided to destroy innocent lives for political gains, or McCarthy had identified many known threats that they could no longer ignore. And we know from the verona decrypts that he had definitely exposed a problem. But their lives weren't "ruined": most went on to jobs in academia, the U.N., or elsewhere. A few fled to other countries (with the aide of the Russians) once they were exposed as communists.

There had been 9 folks (the Tydings 9) that had been deeply investigated: Dorothy Kenyon (1), Haldore Hanson (2) , Philip Jessup (3), Esther Brunauer (4), Frederick Schuman (5), Harlow Shapley(6), Gustavo Duran(7), John Stewart Service(8), and Owen Lattimore (9) - details below.

  • 3 were definitely communist spies:John Stewart Service, Philip Jessup, and Owen Lattimore
  • 2 were identified as members of the Communist Party: Haldore Hanson and Gustavo Duran
  • 3 had belonged to dozens of communist fronts and causes: Dorothy Kenyon, Frederick Schuman, and Harlow Shapley -- and were at least, "useful idiots"
  • 1 was dismissed from the State Department as a security risk in June 1952: Esther Brunauer
  • All were on the Lee List: which was the original claim.

Later in the article I have examples of some of the people McCarthy was calling out. The point is NOT that everyone McCarthy went after was an communist spy, but few were "innocent". The most innocent amongst them were named by known spies, or had supported many communist fronts and had many communist associates who were spies, whether they knew it or not. And many were in-between: they'd definitely been aiding Communist causes, and supporting spies in ways that if they didn't know what they were doing, then they were terminally stupid and shouldn't have been working for the Government with security clearances. (They made Hillary Clinton look competent with regards to her emails). Or they had been communist activists at some point, and had failed to disclose that, so were then considered threats (as they lied on government forms, and were at least more susceptible to blackmail).

The informed can disagree on the policies themselves (on whether the whole of government policy was too zealous with "guilt by association" back then), but that wasn't just Joe's fault. The point is within the confines of the laws, guidelines and beliefs at the time, Joe was right far more often than he was wrong, with regards to the names he named.

The Conspiracy to Frame McCarthy

Since the facts supported McCarthy, and the left didn't like it, they started smear campaigns to try to discredit Joe. Then to frame and ruin him personally. We have communiqués saying exactly that. He was hitting too close to home, and thus, they needed an example. The bigger problem isn't the Administration or Communists efforts at the time, it's that the Historians and other polemics either didn't do their research to know this was going on, or worse, did and will still perpetuate things they know are lies because it benefits their agenda. But either way, if you find any article or report that perpetuates the following, you know they're either sloppy researchers or polemics:

  • McCarthy only had the Lee list, and was making everything else up (no original disclosures)
    • This was the public position of Tydings, Truman Administration and State (but I repeat myself, since they were collaborating). We know their private position was the opposite: they were scouring State dept, the administration and elsewhere in Government hunting for McCarthy moles that were giving him such detailed and accurate statements -- all while Tydings/Admin/State was publicly claiming the information was false, or Joe had no proof -- and trying to force him to give away details of his sources. A convicted spy like John Service was allowed to stay on 5 years after getting caught red-handed, but there was a "fire on sight" order for any McCarthy moles. Again showing who the administration considered the bigger threat. McCarthy's information was so far beyond the Lee list, that he and his staff were providing information and connections to the FBI (especially inside of State and Administration), and the FBI took his information seriously (and uncovered a lot because of it).
  • Did Joe claim he had a list of 205 known communists in his Wheeling speech?
    • Numbers games: he referred to the Byrnes letter (from Secretary of State James Byrnes sent to Congressman Adolph Sabath in 1946). That letter claimed there were 284 persons unfit to hold jobs in the department (because of Communist connections), and since then, only 79 had been discharged, it left 205 communists on the payroll. That’s where that number comes from. But McCarthy appears to have been clear on the difference between his 57 list (and he later provided over 124 names), and the 205 number (which was Byrnes estimate). The numbers changed over time, as more were exposed, but it appears Joe's numbers were conservative.
  • Did Joe "ruin reputations and lives" by making names public?
    • (a) he didn’t make them public, the Democrat controlled Senate made him name them (he wanted to do it behind closed doors and only use numbers to refer to cases). During McCarthy's entire 1947 to 1957 career, no American citizen was interrogated without benefit of legal counsel, none arrested or detained without due judicial process, and no one went to jail without trial. The fact that he was able to offer names and details behind each number, proves he had more than just the "Lee list" (since that only referred to people by number).
  • McCarthy exaggerate his military service!
    • He might have, but as a Judge, he was excluded from the draft: he volunteered to join anyways. Then as an intelligence offer, he had no duty to fly: he volunteered to be tail-gunner on many missions. What’s been in dispute is how many missions he flew vs. claimed to have flown, and he probably exaggerated: but he never had to fly any of those missions, and most of the people criticizing him did far less. He was praised by all his commanding officers, and Admiral Chester Nimitz gave him a personal citation. This canard was to try to show a pattern of deceit, and like the rest, it tends to show he was more accurate than his detractors.
  • During the VOA investigation, the reputation of those involved was so badly damaged that one of its engineers committed suicide during McCarthy's investigation
    • This was a fallacy spread by the left because a guy was killed by a truck the day before he was supposed to testify. There was a letter, but it wasn't close to a suicide note, it was things he needed to do.
  • On March 9, 1954, CBS broadcasted Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now" TV documentary attacking McCarthy
    • Remember Murrow was trusted at the time as Television was new and people didn't know how to be skeptical of newsmen. Murrow got into fights with CBS because they would allow equal time to subjects who felt wronged by his programs. And his strident pro-worker leftist views made him a bit abrasive and biased in his presentations of topics. He later resigned and went to head the VOA (Voice of America) that had communist infiltrations during the war (to be with people more of like mind?)
    • Arthur Herman (Historian) writes in his 2000 book, "Joseph McCarthy: Re-examining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator," Murrow's show on the anti-communist lawmaker "was not a report at all, but a full-scale assault, employing exactly the same techniques of partial truth, innuendo that critics accused McCarthy of using."
    • John Cogley (strong McCarthy critic) issued this warning of where Murrow-style half-truth editing might ultimately lead: "Television is dynamite. Combined with selectivity, it could explode in any person's or group's face.

NOTE: To understand Richard Nixon, you need to look at how the McCarthy battle played out. He saw that McCarthy was able to use tapes to defend the truth. But it ultimately failed because of Executive Privilege (which trumped the Congress and Press’s need-to-know). So Nixon taping everything gave him the advantage of having documentation to support him, and protection if things turned bad. Only the Press flipped 180° when it came to Watergate, and lied (omitted) their prior position and historical precedence: which is why he thought “they were all out to get him”.

In the end, the case against McCarthy was written based on the worst attacks against him in the media. The whole thing was built on Joe being guilty, then finding the reason for it: whatever the far left had accused him in the papers, that was what he had to defend against. The republicans were divided between the conservatives that knew McCarthy was basically right, and the Ike apologists that knew they needed a friend in the White House and to not get on the Administrations bad side: so they split 50/50 (with a few more of McCarthy's supporters abstaining to vote), while most of the Democrats didn't care: they were playing partisan politics against someone who'd shown how inept Truman and FDR had been to cause the mess, they went almost completely against him. It was a show trial had no legal merit, but it was basically taking the worst things Joe McCarthy had ever said, ignoring that they were usually true (and attacking how they were phrased), and/or ignoring the context of others attacking him first.


While Joe McCarthy might have many character flaws, and been a wee bit to enthusiastic, the facts are that he was pushing for investigations against real subversive elements within the government, that the administration had known about for many years and done little to stop, the communists had an incredibly large and complex network of agents and collaborates, and that conspiracy and the Administration was working attack anyone that exposed it. Joe was given insider information from various real investigations done by the FBI and the State Department, information that was being illegally withheld from Congress and the public, because it made the politicos in power look bad.

Joe was a tenacious and ethical bombast. He’d found massive incompetence, and an even broader coverup, and his focus was on demonstrating the coverup. But he did it too well, it was so broad and so vast, that people just didn’t want to believe it could be that bad, despite all the overwhelming evidence of the time. Democrats like FDR, Truman and their allies had totally botched foreign policy, the State Dept., the red-menace, the amount of spying, and so on. They had tried to cover up their incompetent, repeatedly, but the truth of it kept leaking out, humiliating them. Since politicians and Democrats especially, are genetically incapable from taking responsibility, they need a scapegoat — and thus Joe McCarthy became their patsy. Ironically, the conspiracy was so vast (and the administrations had been so incompetent and corrupt), that they used the breadth and depth of their own malfeasance to claim that Joe was absurd: there couldn't be that much wrong going on under the publics noses: thus they sold the fiction that Joe had no basis for his attacks, and was sloppy and callous. Which is ironic, because when it came to research he was pretty meticulous, when it came to speech and the moment, he was a passionate guy that could get sloppy or overstate things -- but he was getting almost all the basics right. Today, we can know that he was more right than he was wrong. And his biggest detractors often turned out to be part of the same conspiracy that he was trying to expose.

Russian Spies in the McCarthy Era

Here are just a few of the folks either being operatives for the Russian government, or at least belonging to groups affiliated and helping them. Tydings 9, Amerasia, Rosenberg spy ring, Army Signal Corps Intelligence Agency (SCIA), and more. Instead of this being an invention of McCarthy's imagination, it turns out virtually all of the people on his lists were put on them by professional intelligence agents, and were suspected for very valid reasons. If not of being spies, of certainly being friends to many people who were later exposed as spies: Dorothy Kenyon, Esther Brunauer, Haldore Hanson, Harlow Shapley, Frederick Schuman, John Stewart Service, Owen Lattimore, Philip Jessup, T.A. Bisson, Solomon Adler, Nathan Gregory Silvermaster (and his wife Hellen/Elizabeth), Lauchlin Currie, Harry Dexter White, Harold Glasser, V. Frank Coe, David Karr, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Annie Lee Moss, Aaron Coleman, Barry Bernstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Leonard Mins, Cedric Belfrage, Mary Jane Keeney, Franz Neumann, Theodore Geiger, William Marx Mandel, Alger Hiss.


Joe McCarthy History