Americans reading M. Stanton Evans’ Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies, may experience déjà vu even if they were not alive in 1950 when the McCarthy saga started to unfold.
I certainly did.
Reading about the activities of Sen. Millard Tydings (D.-Md.), the sanctimonious segregationist who became McCarthy’s most vicious attacker, cannot but conjure visions of more recent denizens of our greatest deliberative body.
In fact, Evans’s magnificent work of historical investigative journalism ought to introduce a new term into the American lexicon: Millardism. This is when an opportunistic and intensely partisan politician, serving the interests of the liberal elite, viciously misrepresents what an opponent says, assuming this misrepresentation will not be exposed by the establishment media but instead will be used to smear the reputation of the intended target beyond recognition or repair.
Let me give you a brief peek preview of one of the many acts of Millardism that Stan Evans exposes.
On Feb. 10, 1950, Sen. Joe McCarthy stopped in Denver on a trip to the West Coast. He gave a brief interview to the Denver Post. The next day, the paper ran the headline: “57 Reds Help Shaping U.S. Policy: McCarthy.” The lead paragraph said: “The State Department knows the names of its 57 employees who are card-carrying Communists, Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin insisted Friday afternoon in Denver.”
That same afternoon, McCarthy stopped in Salt Lake City, where he did a radio interview in which he referred to a speech he gave the night before in Wheeling, W.Va. “Last night I discussed the ‘Communists in the State Department,’” McCarthy said on this program. “I stated I had the names of 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party.”
In Reno that night, according to the local paper, McCarthy again mentioned “57 card-carrying members” of the Communist Party.
Now, from these multiple contemporaneous accounts it would seem hard to dispute that Joe McCarthy did in fact claim in a speech in Wheeling that there were 57 Communists in the State Department. That, in itself, was a startling story.
But one account of what McCarthy said was even more startling. On Friday, February 10, the day after McCarthy’s Wheeling speech, the Intelligencer ran a piece by reporter Frank Desmond. It claimed that McCarthy had said: “I have here in my hand a list of 205 that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department.” This quote — citing the much larger number of 205 Communists — was picked up by the Associated Press.
Sen. Tydings would later promote a charge of perjury against McCarthy because McCarthy would insist, in a subcommittee chaired by Tydings, that what he had said in Wheeling was that there were 57, not 205, Communists in the State Department.
Digging into the record, Evans unearths the explanation for why the Intelligencer got the number wrong in its news story but not in its editorial.
In 1951, a Senate Rules subcommittee investigating whether McCarthy should be censured by the Senate, assigned investigators to look into the Wheeling speech. They produced a long report.
When McCarthy arrived in Wheeling that day, Evans reveals (relying on this subcommittee report), he gave copies of the rough draft of his speech to a local Republican to hand over to a local radio station that was going to broadcast the speech and to reporter Desmond who was going to write about it for the Intelligencer. McCarthy informed them that this was only a rough draft, not the final speech.
Later that night, McCarthy also spoke with Intelligencer Editor Herman Gieske, who also attended the speech and who would write the paper’s editorial stating that McCarthy had spoken of “over 50 persons of known Communist affiliations still sheltered in the U.S. Department of State.”
Gieske, Evans reports, told Senate investigators that McCarthy “stressed to him as well that the draft supplied to Desmond was not the speech delivered and that any press treatment of the talk should be based on what McCarthy actually said that evening.”
The problem appeared to be that the McCarthy’s rough draft did include the number “205” — and Desmond wrote his story using this rough draft rather than the speech McCarthy actually delivered.
Desmond conceded this to the Senate investigators. Their report says that Desmond “admits that he did not hear Sen. McCarthy make that statement and that, in quoting McCarthy in his news article, he relied on the script which had been delivered to WWVA [radio], a copy of which had also been given to him.”
Where did the 205 number come from? While not backing down from his claim of having a list of 57 people in the State Department who were Communists, McCarthy said he had been using the number 205 in a different context, citing a 1946 letter from Secretary of State James Byrnes to Rep. Adolph Sabath (D.-Ill.). “Byrnes said there had been 284 State Department employees on whom security screeners made adverse findings and that 79 of these had been removed from the department as of July 1946,” Evans reports. “Hence 205 such employees were then still on the rolls at State.”
This is why one Democratic Senate aide reluctantly concluded in a note to his boss, Sen. William Benton of Connecticut, that it was implausible to charge McCarthy with perjury. “I lost my enthusiasm for the perjury charge when I got a chance that evening, two years ago, to read the report of the committee staff,” he wrote to Benton. “Now, there isn’t any doubt that the 205 card-carrying Communists in the State Department appeared in the rough draft. But there is grave doubt that McCarthy actually said it to the audience or on the air. He ad-libbed a great part of that speech, roaming over the stage and occasionally walking back to take a glance at his notes. He used at least two figures (doubtless 205 and 57). You’ll remember that on the next night — where we have the recording [of the Salt Lake broadcast] — he announced that on the previous night he had spoken of 57 card-carrying Communists. The 205 figure, I would then assume, he used in its proper context — based on the letter from Byrnes to Sabath.”
Tydings Ignores the Facts
Facts like these did not matter to Sen. Tydings, however. His strategic goal was to destroy McCarthy and deter any further investigation into the question of whether identifiable Communists who had burrowed into the government had not been ferreted out by two Democratic Presidents.
When McCarthy returned from his barnstorming tour, he went down to the Senate floor and read into the record the speech he said he had given at Wheeling. Here he expressly embraced the claim: “I have in my hand 57 cases of individuals who would appear to be either card-carrying Communists or certainly loyal to the Communist Party, but who nevertheless are still helping to shape our foreign policy.”
The Senate then passed a resolution to set up a special subcommittee to “conduct a full and complete study and investigation as to whether people who are disloyal to the United States are, or have been, employed by the Department of State.” Tydings, who became the chair of this committee, sought instead to prove McCarthy was lying about what he had said in his Wheeling speech and by this means to destroy McCarthy’s credibility.
Newsweek, at that time, reported on a meeting that took place in Sen. Tydings’ apartment for the purpose of plotting what one participant called the “total and eternal destruction” of McCarthy.
Had Tydings wished, his inquiry might have been able to settle the question of how many card-carrying Communists or people loyal to the Communist Party or other security risks were knowingly employed by State. That could have been done simply by subpoenaing the department’s security records and demanding that they be produced. This, in fact, is what Sen. McCarthy and other Republicans wanted him to do.
Instead, Tydings dithered on issuing subpoenas, initially merely requesting the files, while Senate Democrats launched attack after attack on McCarthy. When the subcommittee finally did issue subpoenas, the Truman Administration flouted them.
The records themselves, meanwhile, were spirited out of the State Department and into the White House for safekeeping — away from the potentially prying eyes of Congress. Evans unearthed a tell-tale FBI report, based on a contemporaneous bureau interview with a State Department official named Donald Nicholson, which explained why the files were moved. “According to Mr. Nicholson,” said the report, “the transfer of these files to the White House is for political reasons, and, further, for the reason that the State Department was fearful that the secretary of State would be served with a subpoena to produce the files, which can now be answered by stating the files were not in the possession of the State Department.”
So was McCarthy right that there were 57 people at State who were “either card-carrying Communists or certainly loyal to the Communist Party”? Perhaps McCarthy spoke too emphatically at Wheeling and with too much numerical precision. “[W]hen McCarthy finally got going on his cases [in a lengthy Senate floor presentation], the Senate speech was more varied and nuanced than the text from Wheeling-Reno,” Evans reports. But the number of security risks eventually discussed by McCarthy was greater.
“If we check out the State Department rosters of the era, we discover McCarthy’s use of the number 57 in referring to then-current security cases in State’s workforce was indeed mistaken — but erring on the side of understatement,” writes Evans. “In fact, of the people he and [subcommittee assistant counsel Robert] Morris named up through the conclusion of the [Tydings committee] hearings, no fewer than 67 were still at State in 1950. Moreover, at least 15 of the people he named were at work that year on other official payrolls, often having moved there from State, precisely as McCarthy contended. Thus, of the total number of McCarthy/Morris cases, some 82 were still serving at official posts in 1950.”
No fact, or legions of facts, however, could have swayed Sen. Millard Tydings from his anti-McCarthy crusade. When his committee report was released, he went to the Senate floor to give a speech denouncing McCarthy once again for allegedly lying in Wheeling about having a list of 205 Communists in the State Department. Tydings brought with him a phonograph player and a record, suggesting he had an audio record of McCarthy’s actual words in Wheeling.
“All one has to do is read McCarthy’s statement in the Congressional Record and listen to this recording to know that there is not truth in both these statements,” Tydings said. “What is there other than a fraud and a hoax and a deceit about this whole matter?”
But as Stan Evans demonstrates, it was Tydings who was perpetrating a fraud. The recording of McCarthy’s Wheeling speech had been erased by the local radio station a few days after it was aired. No trace of it survived.
Later, in a libel case, McCarthy’s lawyer William Bennett Williams asked Tydings under oath: “Now, we have established this morning, I think pretty conclusively, that you didn’t have a recording of the Wheeling speech, Sen. Tydings?” Tydings conceded: “I did not have a radio recording.”
If Joe McCarthy was a man of excess zeal, at least that zeal was directed at the defense of his country. Millard Tydings’s zeal, by contrast, was only for the destruction of a patriotic colleague.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is revealed in Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. After combing through masses of declassified documents from Congress, the FBI, the State Department and other federal agencies, Stan Evans has produced a masterpiece of truth. In the future, no honest historian will be able to write about the early Cold War or Communist infiltration of the U.S. government, without reading this work and dealing with the evidence it brings forth.