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Joseph R. McCarthy: A Featured Biography


Photo of Senator Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) did not draw major national attention until 1950. On February 9th of that year, he delivered a Lincoln Day address in Wheeling, West Virginia, blaming failures in American foreign policy on Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. The Wisconsin Republican claimed to have a list of known Communists still working in the Department of State. A special subcommittee investigated McCarthy's charges and rejected them as “a fraud and a hoax,” but the outbreak of the Korean War and the highly publicized conviction of Alger Hiss lent credibility to the charges. When McCarthy became chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953, he launched a series of investigations into alleged subversion and espionage. In 1954, a confrontation with the army led to the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings, which tarnished McCarthy's public image, undermined his charges, and prompted his censure by the U.S. Senate.