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Joseph McCarthy

U.S. Senator

Born: 14 November 1908
Died: 2 May 1957 (hepatitis)
Birthplace: Grand Chute, Wisconsin
Best known as:

Communist-hating senator and namesake of "McCarthyism"

A bare-knuckled anti-communist crusader of the early 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy remains one of the most controversial and reviled American politicians of the 20th century. A Marine Corps veteran of World War II, McCarthy was elected to the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin in 1946. He leapt to national fame on 9 February 1950 with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he waved a piece of paper and claimed "I have in my hand" a list of known communist loyalists working in the State Department. For the next four years McCarthy was one of the most powerful men in Washington as he developed a personal and political approach that has become known as McCarthyism: Bullying attacks and accusations, sneeringly anti-communist and anti-intellectual, with a tendency to brand anyone who disagreed with him as disloyal, un-American or a secret communist sympathizer. In 1954, at the height of McCarthy's power, the Army accused McCarthy and his staff of trying to get preferential treatment for a McCarthy consultant named G. David Schine; McCarthy retorted that the Army was trying to keep him from digging out more communists. In the televised hearings that followed, McCarthy's name-calling and browbeating tactics came off as mean-spirited and crude. McCarthy's popularity took a nose dive and his fellow senators voted to officially censure him a few months later. He remained in the Senate until his death in 1957.

Extra credit:

Joseph McCarthy was an intelligence officer stationed in the Pacific during World War II, where he occasionally rode along on missions in the tail-gunner seat; this is the origin of his campaign nickname, "Tail-Gunner Joe"... A recent upsurge of defenders, who claim that Joe McCarthy was right about the communists all along, has yet to eclipse the mainstream view that he was a dirty dog.

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