How did Joseph McCarthy gained public attention?

A. Defeating Dwight Eisenhower in the 1956 election. B. Criticizing the Supreme Court ruling in the Rosenberg case. C. Refusing to cooperate with a HUAC investigation. D. Claiming to have a list of communists in the government. The answer is D: Claiming to have a list of communists in the government.

Senator Joseph McCarthy is an infamous person in the history of the US politics as his opposition to, and the hunt for communists led to severe problems in the US, in the period which is known as the Red Scare.

By United States Senate –

McCarthy started a nationwide witch hunt for the communist’s supporters which did nothing except bully many of the people who had nothing to do with communism.

Who was Joseph McCarthy?

Joseph McCarthy was a Republican Senator from Wisconsin. He is well known for suggesting that multiple Soviet spies and Communists had infiltrated the US government, film industries and universities.

He was a retired marine, who had served as an intelligence officer. In the month of February in 1950, he claimed to have a list of people who were members of a spy ring and members of the Communist party in the United States.

McCarty’s first three years in the Senate were not as remarkable. He was a popular speaker but not very well liked by his fellow senators.

They found him prone to rage and impatience. He was also described as quick-tempered. He was a moderate Republican, active in labor issues.

Why did he claim to have a list of communists in the Government?

On 9th of February, 1950, Senator McCarthy gave a speech to a Republican Women’s Club, on Lincoln Day. It is agreed, because there wasn’t any recorded evidence, that he pulled up a piece of paper that he claimed to contain a list of Communists who worked in the State Department.

He is quoted to have said that the State Department was full of Communists and he had a list of 205 people who were members of the Communist Party.

The House Un-American Activities Committee led by Republicans had begun to extirpate liberal and left-wingers in the State Department and Hollywood. This led to the passing of the McCarran Internal Security Act, requiring subversives to submit to government supervision.

At the time of his speech, communism was a significant concern in the United States. This was exacerbated by the Soviet Union’s actions in Europe, the victory of communists in the civil war in China, the development of a nuclear weapon by the Russians in the prior year and the confessions of the Soviet spy Klaus Fuchs.

The hyper-suspicious atmosphere of the Cold War led to insinuations of disloyalty within the government packed with spies and traitors.

The aftermath

A month after his explosive speech, a Senatorial Subcommittee launched an investigation to subversive activity. Many of McCarthy’s colleagues did not approve of his tactics, as he continued the campaign of red-baiting.

At the beginning of his second term as a senator, he was made in charge of the Committee on Government Operations. This allowed him to launch an investigation into the supposed communist infiltration of the government.

At this time, he aggressively questioned and bullied witnesses. Despite the lack of any proof, around 2,000 employees lost their federal jobs. In 1954, Joseph McCarthy decided to expose the alleged communist infiltration of the armed forces of the United States.

Many had overlooked the Senator’s antics on his campaign against the government’s employees, but their support began to fade now. He had been invulnerable for five years, but not anymore.

The Army undermined McCarthy’s credibility by showing evidence that he had made an effort to get preferential treatment for his acquaintances when they were drafted.

The final blow was the airing of Army-McCarthy hearings on television. The whole nation watched as McCarthy offered evasive responses and intimidated witnesses. These hearings appeared as shameful to many in the country and in politics.

By the time these hearings were done with, the senator had lost almost all of his allies. The Senate condemned him for his behavior. Although he kept his job but lost his powers. After his censure, he continued with his duties for the next two years, but his career was irreparably ruined.


McCarthyism is described as the act of making accusations of treason or subversion without any evidence. This term was coined because of the actions and speeches made by Joseph McCarthy during the second Red-Scare.

During his term, Americans were accused of having sympathy with Communists and became the subject of aggressive investigation tactics and questioning before committees and agencies.

The primary targets were academicians, labor activists, government employees and those in the entertainment industry.

A person’s support for the leftist ideology was often exaggerated, and many suffered as a consequence. People lost jobs, and some were also imprisoned. Most punishments were overturned later.


McCarthy still remained a controversial person. His aggressive hearing came to an end when he met his match in Joseph Welch, counsel for the United States Army.

When McCarthy insinuated that the Army had Communists within its ranks, they brought in Welch who blunted all of McCarthy’s charges.

McCarthy’s behavior became increasingly erratic, and he was prone to temperamental fits. McCarthy was finally exposed as a reckless bully when the hearings came to an end within a week. The Senate condemned him for the contempt of his colleagues which censured him.


  1. About Joseph Mccarthy: Taken from
  2. Biography of Joseph Mccarthy and his political decisions: Taken from
  3. McCarthyism and how it began? Taken from


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