1954 April 22

Army-McCarthy Hearings Begin – McCarthy Destroys Himself


The Army-McCarthy hearings involved Senator Joe McCarthy’s allegations that Communists were employed by the U.S. Army. Televised coverage of the hearings exposed McCarthy’s demagogic tactics to a wide public and played a major role in destroying his credibility. The hearings are most famous for attorney Joseph N. Welch’s denunciation of McCarthy on June 9, 1954.

Joe McCarthy burst onto the political scene with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950, in which he claimed to have a list of Communists in government. The number of people on the “list” kept changing, however, and he never identified a single person. McCarthy dominated American politics for five years between 1950 and 1954. The term “McCarthyism” was created by the cartoonist Herblock (for Herbert Block) in a cartoon published in the Washington Post on March 29, 1950).

His demise began with Edward R. Murrow’s television program criticizing him on March 9, 1954. The program is regarded as one of the most famous in the history of television. The Senate finally censured McCarthy on December 2, 1954, and his influence quickly evaporated — although McCarthyism, reckless and unreasoning anti-Communism, survived long afterwards.

See especially Joseph N. Welch’s famous denunciation of McCarthy on June 9, 1954: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAur_I077NA

Learn more: David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy (1983)

Watch Point of Order, a famous documentary on Senator McCarthy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vdToLufeP8

Learn more about McCarthyism: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/joseph-mccarthy

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