The Red Scare | McCarthy on Trial | 4American Scandal
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- 6 Apr 2021
Accusations emerge that Joseph McCarthy blackmailed the military. He faces investigations in the Senate, and a potentially devastating outcome. Listen to new episodes 1 week early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. Available in the Wondery App https://wondery.app.link/americanscandal.Support us by supporting our sponsors! ZipRecuiter - Go to ZipRecruiter.com/as today to try ZipRecruiter for FREE.
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It's the spring of 1954 in Boston, inside a tall office building, Joe Welch gazes out at Boston Harbor Schooner sail on the sparkling water. Small fishing boats are docked at the shore. Welch can see an orange weathervane fluttering in the breeze as he takes it all in a sad smile forms on Welch's face. He loves the city, the food, the people, the early spring. Welch is a successful lawyer, and he has a good life working for a firm here in downtown.
But in a few minutes, he's going to receive an offer that could take him far from Boston. He doesn't want to leave, even if it's only for a short period of time. But he knows this could be one of the biggest opportunities of his life. Welch hears a chime and glances at his antique clock. It's time for his meeting. Welch steps into an elevator and heads down toward the lobby as he sinks toward ground level. Welch reviews the incredible events now taking place in Washington.
Senator Joseph McCarthy, the famous communist hunter, has been accused of blackmailing the army. Apparently, the senator pressured the army to give special treatment to one of his associates. Now the Senate is planning a trial. It'll be broadcast on national TV and it could destroy the senator's career. It'll be one of the most talked about events in the country. And that's why Welch is nervous, because he recently learned that the Army wants him to be their top lawyer.
The elevator doors open and Welch spots the man he's supposed to meet, he has close cropped hair and perfect posture, he looks disciplined, which makes sense. He's the brother of the Army secretary, Robert Stevens. The two greet each other and Stevens gestures to the front door. Well, I want to go for a walk. We can catch some of that breeze coming off the harbor. Oh, nothing beats it. Well, Washington has its own charms.
I think you'll come to like it if I say yes. But come on, let's walk the two step out onto State Street and begin walking toward the waterfront. Now, Mr. Welch, you know who my brother is. He oversees the entire army, and he asked me to speak with you on his behalf. We want you to take on this case, represent the army when we go up against McCarthy. Well, look, we all know what McCarthy has done to this country.
Even here in Boston, we can feel the effects. No one wants to talk politics anymore. No one's comfortable speaking their minds, not when there's a witch hunt taking place. So, Mr. Welch, you get it. You see why this matters. So you have to take the case. Like I said, this is an important social issue, but I don't understand why I'm just an attorney from Boston. You go down to Washington in the streets, are packed with lawyers.
Why not one of them? Stephen, stops and looks out at the waterfront because look where we are. Look at who you are. This isn't D.C. You're not some slick D.C. lawyer. And that matters because, yes, you do have an impeccable reputation. You're the best of the best. But more important is how you look in the public's eye. If you go toe to toe with McCarthy, because McCarthy is the embodiment of the normal red blooded American zylon, you can't fight that with some kind of Washington fat cat.
But you you're like McCarthy. You used to be a poor boy, grew up on a farm. The public will love you. You're just like every other honest American who wants to know the truth. Welch frowns. He knows that Stevens is right. His unassuming courtroom style would be the perfect contrast to McCarthy. He's still not convinced. Mr. Stevens, I'm a nice, easy life here. I handle my cases every evening. I go home to my wife.
Let me be frank. I know what happens to people who stand up to Joe McCarthy. Now, as of today, the senator from Wisconsin has never heard of me. I wouldn't mind keeping it that way. I understand that. Well, then let me appeal to a higher calling, these hearings we're about to conduct, they're our best chance to defeat McCarthy and McCarthyism, we could really change things. Welch takes a moment to consider this. If he says yes, his life could be turned upside down.
Joe McCarthy could go after him, his family, he could lose his job. But Stevens is right. This fight is about something bigger. It's about the future of the country. Well, it's not something I think I'm going to enjoy, but I'll do my duty. Please tell the Army that I'll take the case. As the two men shake on it, Welch suddenly feels lightheaded, he can't believe the task, he's just accepted. He's about to take on Joe McCarthy on live television with the entire country watching.
He knows McCarthy is a master at using words as weapons. This will be one of the toughest battles he's ever faced. But Welch knows maybe there's a way to turn the senator's words against him if Welch can find it and maybe he can silence McCarthy once and for all. American scandal is sponsored by the Hyundai Santa Fe Take the Road less traveled in the newly redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe with available eight track all wheel drive to help you get off the beaten path a little further together and advance safety features like Available Blind Spot View Monitor that can help you see what's on the other side of the car when switching lanes.
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From wandering, I'm Lindsey Graham, and this is American Skin. In the spring of 1953, Senator Joseph McCarthy began investigating the U.S. Army, he hoped to find evidence that the army had been infiltrated by communists.
But the investigation was a failure. McCarthy was frustrated. And after he lashed out at an Army general, President Eisenhower finally took action to stop McCarthy. Eisenhower approved the release of a damning memo which accused McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, of blackmailing Army officers. This spurred a series of hearings in the Senate, and soon McCarthy would find himself in the biggest fight of his political career. This is episode for McCarthy on Trial. It's April 22nd, 1954, in Washington, D.C. It's a warm spring day, and normally the streets around the capital would be buzzing with tourists.
But as Joseph McCarthy walks down First Street, he notices that the area is unusually quiet, like everyone suddenly disappeared. McCarthy knows the reason why. In just a few minutes, hearings are set to begin on McCarthy's supposed blackmail of the army. He's been accused of using pressure to secure favors for an associate who'd been drafted. A sensational event. And half of America is planning to follow the hearings. Everyone must be home in their living rooms, tuned into their televisions and radios.
As McCarthy walks down the street, he turns to his head lawyer Roy Cohn. He knows Cohn is thinking the same thing he is. These hearings are big. Maybe the biggest challenge McCarthy has ever faced. If he does well, he could walk away looking like a national hero. But if he fails to perform, his career could be over. McCarthy and Cohn turn a corner and approach the Senate office building as they walk up the steps, Cohn gives McCarthy a stern reminder once the hearings begin, he needs to stay silent.
Cohen is his chief counsel. He'll do the talking. McCarthy nods. Even though he hates the arrangement, he wants more than anything to lash out against all the hypocrites in the Senate. They think they're patriots for attacking McCarthy, and he wants to remind them who's actually fighting the good fight. But Cohn is his attack dog and closest confidant to McCarthy says he remembers he'll keep his mouth shut. The two entered the building and walked down a long hallway.
McCarthy then steps into the Senate caucus room and immediately he's greeted by a wall of noise. Technicians are setting up TV cameras as big as suitcases. Spectators packed the gallery and sit gossiping. And when McCarthy enters, he can feel the entire room turn and stare. McCarthy walked over to a long table, and he and Roy Cohn take a seat next to a group of senators that are part of the hearing committee. And with just one glance, McCarthy can see that they're out for blood.
They want to destroy him. McCarthy continues to gaze around the room, seeing one person after the other staring at him with hate in their eyes. They think he's a monster and suddenly inside him, something shifts. He told his counsel, Roy Cohn, that he'd stay quiet throughout these hearings, that he'd let Cohn do the talking. But that was then and this is now. Right now, McCarthy is more certain than ever. He needs to speak up, fight for himself.
He needs to expose all the hypocrites who are trying to take him down. That's the only way he's going to win these hearings and save himself. So McCarthy settles into his chair and looks right into one of the cameras. In a few minutes, he's going to go on the attack. He'll get dirty. You'll probably have to do some damage. But at the end of this match, McCarthy knows that he'll be the victor in these senators. Even the president himself will walk away bruised and battered.
It's May 5th, 1954, in Washington, D.C. Today is the 10th day of hearings about Joseph McCarthy and the senator's attempt to blackmail the Army inside the Senate caucus room where the hearings have been underway. Joe Welch sifts through a stack of papers. He flips through them until he finds the one he's looking for. He pulls out the document and smiles. This this could be the weapon that takes down Joseph McCarthy. Welch would love to deliver a knockout punch.
Millions of Americans are now watching these hearings every day on TV. It's an enormous audience, much larger than anything Welch ever faced back in Boston or during any of his trials. He was intimidated at first. He also had to contend with McCarthy himself. The senator came out swinging, accusing witnesses of being associated with communists and as usual, trying to make himself look like an American hero. But now with this document in hand, Welch feels cool and confident.
He knows this could be the beginning of the end of Joseph McCarthy. The hearing begins and Welch leans forward to the microphone.
He lifts up the document and reminds the whole room what he's holding in his hands. It was Joseph McCarthy who introduced this document at the hearings. It lies at the heart of McCarthy's quest to find communists in the army. McCarthy said this document was written by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, and that it listed the names of potential communists in the Army. It was ironclad proof, McCarthy said, that he needed to launch an investigation. Welch looks out over the room and narrows his eyes.
He says that it's a good story, except that it's a fiction. Welch says that he's spoken with the FBI and the FBI was clear this letter with all these names of communists in the Army. This document does not exist in their files. Welch then asked McCarthy if he's aware that he's based his entire investigation on a forgery. McCarthy shifts uncomfortably and says the FBI must be mistaken, a credible source leaked him the document. He points out that J.
Edgar Hoover's name is signed at the bottom of the letter. Welch has to suppress a grin. McCarthy has stepped right into his trap while traces the letter again and says that this story is also a fiction. Director Hoover says he wrote no such letter without pauses and lets his words settle in and he moves in for the kill. He asks if Senator McCarthy was the one who created this forgery or did he just blindly accept a fake document? McCarthy seems to shrink in his seat.
The TV cameras turned to him and he uses the sleeve of his suit to wipe the sweat from his forehead. For the first time in days, McCarthy appears frozen in silence. Welch holds an expression of angry determination, but inside he feels like he's floating. Half of America is watching McCarthy squirm. They're seeing the face of a liar, and Welch has no intent to let up. Not until McCarthy has lost every last shred of credibility. About a month later, President Dwight D.
Eisenhower enters the Oval Office. Beside him is Senator Charles Potter, a member of the committee running the hearings about Joseph McCarthy. Potter is also a Republican, and that's part of why he's here today meeting with Eisenhower. The senator tells Eisenhower that he wants to bring the hearings to a close. They've gotten ugly and they've become a huge embarrassment for the Republican Party, not to mention the country as a whole. Eisenhower takes a seat at his desk and for a moment he stares at Potter with a look of sincere sympathy.
The senator lost both his legs fighting in World War Two. He fought to protect the country. And now, instead of Redlegs, he has a pair of prosthetics and crutches.
Potter is a war hero like so many other public servants, and Eisenhower knows that his intentions come from a decent place. He understands why Potter wants to end the hearings about McCarthy. But Eisenhower made up his mind long ago when he decided to leak the memo showing that McCarthy had tried to blackmail the Army. He hasn't changed his mind since. So Eisenhower explains that only one thing matters now and that stopping Joseph McCarthy. So the hearings which Eisenhower set in motion, will continue until McCarthy's career is ruined.
Eisenhower can see that Potter is disappointed, and he's not surprised by Ponder's response. The senator believes they've already done plenty of damage to McCarthy. Now they need to end the spectacle before there's any more collateral damage. Eisenhower knows this could be true, but he says he's not taking any chances. McCarthy could still recover and he's still capable of inflicting serious harm even recently. McCarthy called Eisenhower's administration a bunch of communist dupes. McCarthy then encouraged all two million federal employees to find information about corruption, communism or treason inside the administration and to leak that information directly to him.
Eisenhower is resolute as he reminds Potter that this is the same tactic Hitler used. And just like Hitler. McCarthy is doing it under the pretense of fighting communism. Potter stares at the ground. He looks chastened by the comparison. And for a moment, the two remain silent. Eisenhower decides to break the silence until ponder that he doesn't make this comparison lightly. Senator Joseph McCarthy is the most dangerous figure in the history of American politics. He must be stopped.
So therefore, these hearings must keep going for the sake of America's democracy. Potter looks down, weighing his words, and then he meets Eisenhower's gaze and nods. Eisenhower is right. The hearings will keep going. It's June 9th, 1954, in Washington, D.C., inside the Senate caucus room, Joseph McCarthy sits with his head in his hands. He's tired and feels worn thin. Badly needs a drink, this is now the 30th day of hearings about McCarthy and the Army.
For a month, McCarthy has sat and watched other senators slander his reputation. McCarthy shakes his head in a bitter rage.
Yes, he did help secure favors for his lawyer's friend, but there's no crime in pulling a few strings. Every senator in D.C. does the exact same thing. He's sick and tired of the hypocrisy, the grandstanding. And even worse, McCarthy knows these hearings were never about favors or pulling some strings. For a friend of a friend, it's a smear campaign. These hearings are the work of his enemies, people trying to destroy him. And so far, after 30 days, they seem to be winning.
McCarthy knows the entire country has been watching him get dragged through the mud. So as he listens to the hearing today, go on and on, McCarthy makes a decision. It's time to launch a full throated counteroffensive to attack Joe Welch, the spineless lawyer from Boston who's leading the hearings, because maybe if he beats back Welch, he can finally bring these hearings to a close. McCarthy waits for a pause in the testimony, then leans forward into the microphone.
He has a story that he knows will badly hurt Welch, since Mr. Welch pretends to be so concerned about the truth. He should know all about a young man at his law firm, a man named Fred Fisher. For many years, Mr. Fisher was a member of an organization called the National Lawyers Guild and is considered the legal bulwark of the Communist Party, attacking anyone who dares to expose communists. And yet, Mr. Welch recommended that Mr. Fisher work on these very hearings and gain access to classified material.
A senator overseeing the hearings breaks in Senator McCarthy, Mr. Welch never recommended Mr. Fischer for these hearings. Well, let me ask Mr. Welch.
You are aware that Fred Fischer served, but Welch cuts him off until this moment. Senator, I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fischer has started what looks to be a brilliant career with our law firm. It's true that I considered him to work with me on this case, but he readily admitted that for some months after law school, he was a member of the Lawyers Guild. I told Fred that if you worked on this case, this past would come out and be aired over national television.
And so for this reason alone, I asked him to leave the case. Welch pauses as tears begin to form in his eyes. Little did I know that you would still be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that man. I fear he will always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. All at once, the hearing room grows silent, McCarthy feels a tap on the shoulder, and his counsel, Roy Cohn, hands him a note.
It instructs McCarthy to stop bringing up this young lawyer. It's not helping, but McCarthy feels an obsessive urge to keep fighting to win the battle, to finally turn the tide of these hearings so he plunges forward again. Mr. Welch talks of me of being reckless, and yet he was the one who wanted to foist a communist supporter upon this committee. Welch gives McCarthy a look of sad disappointment. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough.
Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Welch wipes another tear from his eyes and a car he looks around, shocked as the audience in the hearing room suddenly bursts into applause. McCarthy feels a wave of nausea as he realizes that he's just made a horrible mistake. Cohen was right. He should have stopped. He finally went too far. And now, with the whole country watching, McCarthy looks like a monster.
Everyone wants him gone, gone from the Senate and vanished from public life. But McCarthy knows he can't just give up. He can't stop fighting even if he's up against the whole world. American Scandal is sponsored by ZIP Recruiter, think about the perfect employee, what skills, talents and experience does this person have? They're probably detail oriented, dependable problem solvers with initiative. Now, think about how many other companies want the exact same thing. If you're hiring, how do you stand out?
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Dotcom for those who were born to grill. It's August 1954, Joseph McCarthy is at his home in Washington, D.C., and even though it's still morning, he already feels thirsty for something hard. So he heads over to the kitchen, cabinet grabs a glass, he opens a bottle of vodka and fills the glass all the way to the brim. McCarthy stares at the cool, clear liquid. Then he downs the glass in a single gulp. McCarthy collapses in a chair, and when he looks up, he can see a reflection of himself in the mirror.
He's wearing a faded bathrobe. He looks tired and haggard. His skin is discolored, and all at once, McCarthy feels gripped with self-pity. He has no doubt his life is a disaster. The seemingly endless hearings about the army and blackmail finally came to a close. But when they ended, McCarthy could tell that he was one of the most hated man in America. He vowed to keep fighting. But now the Senate has appointed yet another committee to continue investigating him to decide whether he should be censured.
McCarthy pours himself another glass of vodka. He'd rather resign from the Senate than face another investigation. But right now he has a single goal, and that's to drink until he can't feel a thing. McCarthy takes another big swig of vodka and feels his eyes closing when suddenly the doorbell rings, startles him. McCarthy doesn't get many visitors these days. Even his own Republican colleagues want nothing to do with McCarthy stumbles to the door and opens it standing in the doorway as Roy Cohn is brilliant attack dog McCarthy grins when he sees Cohn.
But just as quickly, he's filled with an almost unbearable feeling of sad nostalgia. Cohen, his ally, his confidant, isn't really his anymore. After the hearings ended, McCarthy's colleagues forced Cohn to resign his position on McCarthy's committee. Their work together had come to an end. Now the two are just friends, and so McCarthy invites him in to relax and have a drink. Cohen steps into the house. The two enter the living room. Cohen takes his usual seat and the armchair, and McCarthy sets his vodka on the coffee table.
He smiles at calm and suddenly feels like the room is swaying. Maybe he got up too fast when the doorbell rang. Maybe he's had too much to drink. Or maybe he just needs another sip. McCarthy grabs his vodka and finishes the glass. Then he looks up at Cohn, his eyes bloodshot, and says he has an announcement he's resigning from office. Snorts and then tells McCarthy to stop talking nonsense. Of course, he's not resigning, but McCarthy shakes his head and says it's true he can't take another round of humiliations in the Senate.
Cohn cuts him off. He speaks sternly as if disciplining a child, and he tells McCarthy to pull himself together. It's true he faces a possible censure. But censure is just a word. It's typical Washington all talk, no action. But Joe McCarthy, now, he's a fighter. America loves him for. McCarthy feels the room starting to spin again. He closes his eyes and tells Cohen that he's wrong. The polls say two out of every three Americans hate his guts.
He's enemy number one. McCarthy reaches for the vodka bottle but can't beat him to it. He grabs the bottle and holds it out of McCarthy's reach. Cohen says McCarthy is doing exactly what his enemies want him to do. President Eisenhower would love nothing more than to see Joe McCarthy resign and then drink himself to death. McCarthy purses his lips and holds back a tear, and he cries out and punches a wall. He looks down, his breath labored.
He can't believe it's come to this drunk in a bathrobe in the middle of the morning. But McCarthy knows he's better than this. He's not a loser. He's a winner. That's what he does. And so he turns to Cohn and tells them he's right. He will not go down without a fight. He still tailgunner Joe, an American hero. His colleagues wouldn't dare to censure him. And if they do, he'll make damn sure their constituents know they're soft on the Soviets grins and Nazis approval.
This sounds like the old Joe McCarthy. Then McCarthy says he's going to get dressed. It's time to go to the office. The United States Senate hasn't seen the last of him yet. Three months later, Senator Barry Goldwater strides down a corridor in Bethesda Naval Hospital just outside Washington, D.C. It's a typically lifeless hospital with its gray acoustic tiles and fluorescent lights. But Goldwater didn't come here to have fun. He's here to visit his ally and colleague, Joe McCarthy, who apparently got drunk, fell and hurt his elbow.
Like McCarthy, Goldwater is a staunch conservative. He believes in many of McCarthy's tactics and credits the senator with putting some fight back into the Republican Party. At the same time, Goldwater has to admit that McCarthy has had a devastating effect on the party's popularity in the recent elections.
The Republicans who stood by McCarthy lost their races. The party lost control of both the House and the Senate. McCarthy is now officially a losing cause, and most Republicans are eager to get some distance from him. Many even want to see him censured. And in only a few weeks, the full Senate will vote on the issue. It's a big vote because even though a censure wouldn't expel McCarthy from the Senate, it would be an official vote of disapproval.
It could finally destroy his career. That's why Goldwater is here today at the hospital. He's going to offer his friend one last shot at redemption if he can only convince McCarthy to play along.
Goldwater enters the hospital room and sees McCarthy propped up in his bed, his arm in the slammer. All it takes is one look at McCarthy and Goldwater. Shocked, McCarthy looks frail and sick. Goldwater heard rumors that McCarthy's drinking had gotten out of control. But this is beyond his worst expectations. Goldwater approaches the bed, lays a hand on McCarthy's good arm. John, how are you doing? I'm okay, Barry. Just OK. After the hearings, I was trying to make a comeback, you know, but it didn't go so well.
You probably heard I'm not too popular these days. Well, that's why I'm here. I've got some good news. I have a plan, a way to help you avoid being censured. Let me guess. I get down on my knees and kiss Eisenhower's feet. Come on, Joe, I'm serious. Want to help. And I think I can get you off easy. Now, just read the censure resolution and you'll see it isn't really about anything you've done.
It's just about the way you went against Senate traditions or some other nonsense. Gold water reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a fallen sheet of paper. Now, look, apparently a couple of senators from the South say you hurt their feelings. So if you just sign this letter of apology, I can get them to vote against your censure. Then do the math. We have the votes to beat it. Joe, you keep your committee assignments, you keep your power.
And by the time you're back up for re-election, you'll have your public standing behind you again. Goldwater hands McCarthy the letter and watches as he reads it. My bad right. See, you're barely apologizing for anything. So just sign the letter. And Senator Joe McCarthy lives to fight another day. And here you go. There's a pen. Just sign at the bottom. McCarthy looks up with an angry scowl and throws the pen across the room. Joe, what are you doing?
Just swallow your pride. Sign the letter. It's suicide. If you get censured, why don't give a damn. They're all hypocrites fools. So, no, I'm not going to apologize. I don't care what they do. They can't hurt me. A censure vote. That's a joke. This is just going to make me look better and stronger. It will be their loss. Goldwater steps back from the hospital bed and grabs a pen from the floor, he shakes his head and realizes he's not going to win this fight.
McCarthy won't meet him in the middle, so he says goodbye and steps back into the hospital corridor as Goldwater makes his way out. He can't make up his mind. He's not sure if McCarthy is a madman and the greatest political genius he's ever met. Maybe it's both. But either way, the censure vote is coming and McCarthy will have to live with the consequences. Days later, Joseph McCarthy sits at his desk on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
He waits watching his senator stream into the chamber. Soon, these elected leaders, the most powerful people in the country, will take up a motion that could change McCarthy's life. They'll decide whether or not to censure him. The senators reached their desks and McCarthy can see their surprise one by one as they discover stacks of bright pink papers. McCarthy grins. This was his stunt, those documents or editorials from a communist newspaper in those pieces. The writers took strong stances against Joseph McCarthy.
McCarthy knows the message is clear for his fellow senators. Communists hate McCarthy because he's the real deal. He fights communists and he wins. So a vote tonight to censure McCarthy would, in effect, be a vote for communism. McCarthy laughs He's had moments of weakness in the last few months, he's been drinking too much. He hurt himself. He hasn't got the kind of positive attention he used to get. But with this stunt, he can feel it.
He's back to his old ways, playing tricks to keep his opponents on edge. McCarthy looks to the front of the chamber as vice president. Nixon calls the session to order. McCarthy takes a deep breath. As much as he hates to admit it, he wants to win this vote. Barry Goldwater was right.
The center would be horrible for his career, and McCarthy isn't ready to throw in the towel. Soon, the voting begins with each senator called in alphabetical order. It's no surprise that the Democrats vote to censure him. McCarthy expected that. And when the roll call comes to Barry Goldwater, it's no surprise that his friend votes in his favor.
But as the votes add up, something starts to happen. McCarthy can see he's losing the fight and he begins to feel a growing fear, like some unstoppable wave that's coming to swallow him. Finally, the last vote is cast. The numbers are in and McCarthy feels himself growing weak. Only 22 of his Republican colleagues took his side altogether. 67 U.S. senators voted to censure him. The motion has passed and now he's officially an outcast in the Senate. For a moment, McCarthy sits frozen in place, stunned.
But then something inside him snaps. He bolts up from his desk, fuming. McCarthy trains his eyes on the exit and storms out of the chamber. McCarthy can't remember the last time he was this angry. He can't remember the last time he wanted revenge so badly. Feels like an ache deep inside his bones. So as McCarthy exits onto the steps of the Capitol, he knows that now there's only one thing to do. He's going to rally his base.
He's going to find a way to make his enemies pay. He is still an American hero. He's still a fighter. And even if the Senate wants him gone, he's not done fighting. American scandal sponsored by Audible My wife and I were talking about listening, and it wasn't the typical you don't listen spousal trope. Instead, we both agreed that we absorb and enjoy books more when we're listening and there's no better place to get listening than Audible and their new plus catalog.
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Five hundred. It's nighttime, 1956, Joseph McCarthy walks through the streets of downtown Milwaukee, his dress shoes click against the pavement and McCarthy stops at a tall brick building. McCarthy checks his breath. Then he straightens his tuxedo and runs a hand through his hair. You can feel it. He looks good. It looks powerful in this tuxedo and black tie. He looks just like he used to in the old days. Important one of the most influential politicians in the country.
And tonight, appearance matters because Joseph McCarthy is planning to make his grand entrance on the political stage. He's just arrived at a very fancy hotel where Vice President Richard Nixon is hosting a fundraiser. Nixon is campaigning alongside President Eisenhower as the to seek a second term. The fundraiser tonight will be attended by the most important figures in Washington. And McCarthy knows that these movers and shakers still depend on senators like him. But McCarthy didn't get an invitation to the event.
He doesn't have many allies. Ever since he was censured, even the press has lost interest in him. But for McCarthy, that doesn't matter. They can count them out. But Joseph McCarthy will prove once again, and he's a force to be reckoned with. McCarthy enters the hotel's ballroom and looks around, political power brokers are gathered in eveningwear. The room is lit by crystal chandeliers and red velvet drapes hang from the walls. It's a perfect setting for a political rebirth.
And so McCarthy walks over to the head table and takes a seat. It's time to start socializing. But as McCarthy searches for a friendly face, he notices a gray haired man come hurrying toward him. Senator McCarthy. What what are you doing here? What do you mean what am I doing here? I'm a Republican senator. This is a Republican campaign event and it's my home state. So I'm here with Senator McCarthy, I'm sorry to say. But you are not invited.
It does no good having you here. So you're going to have to leave. I'm sorry to say you are mistaken. There are lots of people here who are glad to have me. Senator McCarthy, I have to insist now this party still needs me. This is a campaign event and no one is a better campaigner than me. I can rally the public and get the votes. Will re-elect Eisenhower. The man crosses his arms and pauses before looking back in McCarthy.
Senator McCarthy, let's be honest. You didn't come here to re-elect Eisenhower, who came here to stroke your ego.
McCarthy slaps his hand against the table and knocks over a drink. You listen to me. I'm a U.S. senator. I was elected to represent the people of Wisconsin and represent the interests of the people of Wisconsin. Lead this party now. Plant. McCarthy looks around the room and suddenly he notices a number of people staring at him. They look angry and disappointed to see him when he meets their gaze. Each of them turns away in disgust because he feels his face flushing than it hits them.
They really don't want him here. So McCarthy rises from the head table and stalks out of the ballroom. He knows he doesn't need these people. And if they think they don't need him, will fine. Let them sink in the ship they've built. McCarthy steps out of the hotel and back into the street. He feels the rush of the cool night air against his skin. Even from out here, he can still hear the voices and music coming from the ballroom.
If you like little daggers poking at his skin, it's almost unbearable. So McCarthy walks away from the hotel. He picks up the pace, walking faster as his mind, too, begins to race. He hates Washington. He hates all of these petty, small minded fools. What do they do now? One of the ever gotten done. This country is falling apart while they laugh and eat shrimp cocktails. But as he reaches the side of an alley, McCarthy stops.
His breath is labored. He realizes that he's also a fool. More than anything, he wanted to be the king of the Great Dismal Swamp in Washington. He spent his whole life chasing the dream. And now, now he has nothing. The thought is crushing an all McCarthy wants is to disappear. So he walks into the dark alley and sinks to the ground. All at once. He begins to cry, heaving, painful sobs. McCarthy has never felt so lonely.
And now, for the first time in his life, he doesn't know what to do. It's early May 1957, about a year later in a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, Gene Curre approaches a private room. She reaches for the doorknob, but stops Tienes eyes are burning. She feels woozy, like she's about to fall over. She knows she needs to turn the knob and go into this private hospital room. She can't do it. She doesn't have the strength to see what's on the other side of the door, even if she knows exactly what's waiting for her.
Her husband, Joseph McCarthy, has been here at the Bethesda Naval Hospital for days now. The doctors aren't sure exactly what's wrong with him. It could be hepatitis. It could be something else. Either way, McCarthy's health is failing rapidly. He's been delirious and vomiting. He's had seizures, hallucinations. At one point, his temperature rose to 110 degrees. The doctors warn, Jean, that this could be the end, but she can't believe it.
Joe was only forty eight years old. He's too young to die. Still, Jean knows that no matter how hard she tries to push away the truth, the doctors may be right. Joe could be dying. So she digs deep into her soul and finds the last of her strength and courage. She turns the doorknob, and then she enters Joe's hospital room. Jean slowly steps in and hears the beating of a heart rate monitor. Then her eyes land on her husband and she feels like the ground is opening up beneath her.
Joe looks frail and withered away. His skin is a pale yellow. His eyes are closed. He looks more like an embalmed corpse than a human being. Jean approaches the bed. Now she looks at Joe. She has a moment of complete and painful clarity. This is it. It's time a tear escapes from the corner of chains and falls to the floor. She sniffles and wipes her face. And then Jean leans forward and gives Joe a long, tender kiss on his forehead.
She steps back and gazes and her husband, Joe McCarthy, a man who she knows was bigger than life itself, who never shrank back from a fight. She loved Joe. But now it's time to say goodbye. She closes her eyes and kisses him again one last time. On May 2nd, 1957, Joseph McCarthy died, the doctors labeled the cause of death as acute hepatitis. This may have been an attempt to spare his family any embarrassment. Yet McCarthy almost certainly died as a result of alcohol withdrawal after his death.
McCarthy's wife, Jeanne, requested a state funeral. McCarthy was honored with a memorial in the Senate chamber and 70 senators attended. They gave glowing tributes to their fallen colleague, Roy Cohn. McCarthy's chief counsel went into private practice. It would go on to serve as the personal lawyer and mentor for Donald J. Trump, the future president of the United States. Today, Joseph McCarthy is best known for his role in the Red Scare. It was an era that raised important questions about free speech, political ideology and what it meant to be a loyal American.
Countless lives were turned upside down by McCarthy and others who sought to expose communists in the United States. Yet in all his years of investigations, Joseph McCarthy never caught the Soviet spine. Next on American Scandal, we speak with Larry Tye, a journalist and the author of Demigod, A Biography of Joseph McCarthy. We'll discuss the origins of the Red Scare and we'll look at the wide reaching impact of Joseph McCarthy's investigations from wandering. This is episode for the Red Scare for Americans can if you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends, subscribe on Apple podcasts, Amazon music or wherever you're listening right now.
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Be sure to listen to my other podcast to American history tellers and business movers. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatisations are based on historical research. If you'd like to learn more about Joseph McCarthy, we recommend the book Demigod by Larry Time and the Life and Times of Joe McCarthy by Thomas Reeves. American Scandal is hosted, edited and executive produced by me, Lindsey Graham for Airship Audio Editing by Molly BOQ.
Sound Design by Derek Barens. Music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Michael Carney Meyer, edited by Christina Miles per hour. Senior producer is Gabe Revett. Executive producers are Stephanie Gen's, Jenny Lour Beckman and Hernan Lopez for wondering what. Hi, I'm David Brown, the host of the Business Wars podcast and author of our new book, The Art of Business Wars, The Art of Business Wars features great stories from history's greatest business rivalries. And the stories are fascinating, that's for sure.
But the lessons we draw from them about determination, ingenuity, patience and all the other traits of the victorious enterprise are invaluable. Whether you're just coming up in your career or are already a CEO to order your copy today, go to Wonder Dotcom, the art of Business Wars.