|22 April 1954
Army-McCarthy Hearings Begin
|During the past year Joseph McCarthy continued his crusade to root out communists in government service. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations he now had a substantial staff, and with the help of his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, he called before his committee a whole series of witnesses whom he accused of being part of a grand conspiracy to subvert the American Republic.
But McCarthy began to run into problems when he turned his spotlight on the U.S. Army. At this point President Eisenhower, who had up to this point unwilling to make any reference to the Wisconsin Senator, publicly denounced him and issuing orders that no employee of an executive agency testify before his committee. Then one possible reason for McCarthy’s interest in the army became apparent—G. David Schine, a friend of Roy Cohn and an unpaid consultant for the committee, had been drafted in the summer of 1953, and in March army officials came forward with a report documenting no fewer than 44 separate attempts by Cohn to secure preferential treatment for Private Schine.
It was during the resulting Army-McCarthy hearings that the American public saw McCarthy’s true nature. Opening on April 22, and lasting for a total of 36 days, they were televised nationally to an audience of 20 million people. McCarthy came across as a common thug, bullying and badgering witnesses and threatening to destroy careers on the flimsiest of evidence. When the Army’s chief counsel, Joseph N. Welch, finally shamed him with the famous words, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” the audience in the committee’s chamber burst into applause.