1950 February 9

“McCarthyism” is Born


Senator Joe McCarthy (R–Wisconsin) delivered a speech on this day to a Republican Party group in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he said: “I have in my hand a list of 205 . . .  a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department. . . .”  The speech catapulted Sen. McCarthy from obscurity to national prominence, and gave the English language a new word, “McCarthyism,” to characterize his reckless attacks on people and organizations for allegedly having Communist sympathies.

McCarthy dominated American politics for four years. His demise began with the famous Edward R. Murrow television program exposing his reckless tactics on March 9, 1954. The U.S. Senate finally censured him on December 2, 1954, and his influence quickly faded. The term “McCarthyism” is regularly used as a short-hand for the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War. But in fact, President Harry Truman’s Loyalty Program, which he announced on March 21, 1947, made guilt-by-association attacks on people for their political associations official government policy three years before McCarthy burst on the scene.

The term “McCarthyism” was coined by Washington Post cartoonist Herblock (real name: Herbert Block) in a cartoon published on March 29, 1950.

Read McCarthy’s Famous Speech: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6456/

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

Watch a documentary on McCarthy, Point of Order: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EhOdSSI8n4

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!