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Censure of Senator Joseph Mccarthy (2 December 1954)

CENSURE OF SENATOR JOSEPH MCCARTHY (2 December 1954)


By 1954 the investigative excesses of Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy had run their course. Once a virtually unknown Senator from Wisconsin, McCarthy ascended to national prominence by claiming he had proof that "card-carrying" members of the Communist party had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. Also serving as head of the Senate's Government Operations Committee and its permanent investigations subcommittee, McCarthy exceeded his limits when he set his sights on the United States Army. During days of nationally televised hearings, the American public watched as McCarthy, who many of them had previously only read about, browbeat and bullied witness after witness without ever producing a shred of tangible evidence to support his damning accusations. For McCarthy, the result was catastrophic. Public support, even among those who believed in his cause, dwindled and virtually disappeared. By the end of the year the Senate issued the condemnation seen here, which passed by a vote of 65–22. With the so-called Red Scare on the wane and the Democrats once again in control of the Senate, Joseph McCarthy was relegated to the role of political nonentity until his death in 1957.

Laura M.Miller,
Vanderbilt University

See also Anticommunism ; Cold War ; McCarthyism .

Resolved, That the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, failed to cooperate with the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in clearing up matters referred to that subcommittee which concerned his conduct as a Senator and affected the honor of the Senate and, instead, repeatedly abused the subcommittee and its members who were trying to carry out assigned duties, thereby obstructing the constitutional processes of the Senate, and that this conduct of the Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, is contrary to senatorial traditions and is hereby condemned.

Sec 2. The Senator from Wisconsin, Mr. McCarthy, in writing to the chairman of the Select Committee to Study Censure Charges (Mr. Watkins) after the Select Committee had issued its report and before the report was presented to the Senate charging three members of the Select Committee with "deliberate deception" and "fraud" for failure to disqualify themselves; in stating to the press on November 4, 1954, that the special Senate session that was to begin November 8, 1954, was a "lynch-party"; in repeatedly describing this special Senate session as a "lynch bee" in a nationwide television and radio show on November 7, 1954; in stating to the public press on November 13, 1954, that the chairman of the Select Committee (Mr. Watkins) was guilty of "the most unusual, most cowardly things I've ever heard of" and stating further: "I expected he would be afraid to answer the questions, but didn't think he'd be stupid enough to make a public statement;" and in characterizing the said committee as the "unwitting handmaiden," "involuntary agent" and "attorneys-in-fact" of the Communist Party and in charging that the said committee in writing its report "imitated Communist methods—that it distorted, misrepresented, and omitted in its effort to manufacture a plausible rationalization" in support of its recommendations to the Senate, which characterizations and charges were contained in a statement released to the press and inserted in the Congressional Record of November 10, 1954, acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity; and such conduct is hereby condemned.


SOURCE: "Censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy," 83rd Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Resolution 301 (2 December 1954).

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