1950 June 1

Senator Margaret Chase Smith Denounces Joe McCarthy – And is Punished by GOP


Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R–Maine), the only woman in the Senate in 1950 and the only female to serve in both chambers of Congress to that time, stepped forward on this day to courageously denounce Senator Joe McCarthy for his reckless anti-Communist demagoguery. McCarthy had burst onto the political scene just four months earlier with a famous speech in Wheeling on February 9, 1950. Sen. Smith’s speech was titled a “Declaration of Conscience.” McCarthy’s influence was already so strong that Smith’s speech had no effect whatsoever, and Senate Republican leaders punished her by removing her as a member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. They gave her seat to Sen. Richard Nixon (R–California), who had already built his career on relentless attacks on alleged Communists in government.

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 almost 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.

The Senate censured McCarthy on December 2, 1954, and his influence quickly evaporated — although McCarthyism, reckless and unreasoning anti-Communism, survived long afterwards.

Senator Smith: “The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as ‘Communists’ or ‘Fascists’ by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.”

Read Senator Smith’s Full Statementhttp://www.mcslibrary.org/program/library/declaration.htm

Read: Patricia Wallace, Politics of Conscience: A Biography of Margaret Chase Smith (1995)

Watch Margaret Chase Smith and Eleanor Roosevelt on Face the Nationhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-yuKotSxYw

Visit the Margaret Chase Smith Library: http://www.mcslibrary.org/

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