Senator Joseph McCarthy and his legal counsel Roy Cohn
After five years of using his position on the Committee of Un-American Activities to elevate his career by tearing down others, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tactics came to an abrupt end when he took on the U.S. Army. Prior to that, he and counsel Roy Cohn had investigated and destroyed the careers of hundreds of men and women in Hollywood, the State Department and other government agencies with accusations of communist activities.
In the fearful environment of the Cold War, their tactics initially enjoyed popular support. However, as McCarthy’s accusations became increasingly shrill and were directed at more and more respected circles, the established political community and media began to slowly speak out against McCarthy.
In the spring of 1954, McCarthy accused the American military, including Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens, of hampering the investigating committee. With a national television audience watching, McCarthy squared off against Stevens’ defense counsel Joseph Welch. The encounter prompted a national rejection of McCarthy. Three years after the hearing, McCarthy died of alcoholism.
The American Experience: The History and Culture of the United States through Speeches, Letters, Essays, Articles, Poems, Songs, and Stories, edited by Erik Bruun and Jay Crosby.
Click on link to download the full document. This document contains the text of the McCarthy – Army Hearings of June 9, 1954, whereby Army defense counsel Joseph Welch challenges Senator Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” addressing a charge against a member of the Army legal team. Senator McCarthy would lose widespread support by the national public audience. Later, the Senator would eventually face censure by the U.S. Senate as his “communist witchhunts” came out of favor.