Accuracy in Media

By Wes Vernon*

Senator Joseph Raymond McCarthy died 50 years ago. For a half century, elite establishmentarians?echoed (to some extent led) by the media?have moved heaven and earth to make certain succeeding generations swallowed their portrait of him as villainous.

Finally, America has the most thorough scholarly examination of his career in Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight against America’s Enemies. This volume results from years of painstaking research by M. Stanton Evans?longtime journalist and author. Unsnarling the errors, distortions and deliberate falsehoods that have been spread regarding McCarthy’s stormy five-year expos? of Soviet agents is nothing less than a full-time job.

Why is it necessary to set the record straight on so-called “McCarthyism” at this point? First and foremost, we have a mainstream media which go along with or are cowed by the “political correctness” police. Attempts to deal with today’s deadly threat are met in many media quarters with charges of “Islamophobia.” One radio talk-show host was driven off the air in Washington because he dared to lean on the Islamic community to speak out more clearly against suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. 

Many in the “prestige” media seem quite comfortable with an airport security system that?for fear of arousing the ire of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)?will wand an 85-year-old grandmother from Keokuk, Iowa and let an angry young male from Saudi Arabia zip through. And this despite an attack on our own soil?something that had not happened in McCarthy’s time.

Senator McCarthy violated all the “political correctness” taboos of his day?long before that Orwellian term was invented. In that era, “political correctness” meant that almost anyone nailed as a Communist traitor was the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Beyond Hiss

Much of the mainstream media sympathized with Alger Hiss?even after that Soviet agent had gone to prison for lying about his treason. The late Newsweek correspondent Ralph de Toledano found that many of his colleagues stopped speaking to him after he blew the whistle on Hiss.

Just days after Hiss’s imprisonment, Joe McCarthy charged that the Hiss case was not an isolated scandal and that the State Department routinely hired and covered up the records of Communists and their friends.     

In the fifties, Senator McCarthy blew the whistle on conspirators and their enablers who aided and abetted the downfall of the pro-western Chinese government of our World War II ally Chiang-Kai-Shek. Powerful media outlets led much of America to believe the Chinese Communists who overthrew Chiang’s government were not Communists at all but merely “simple agrarian reformers.”

Today?58 years later?those “reformers” run a giant prison/slave state. Red China (a term unfashionable but accurate) has missiles pointed in our direction and is determined to eclipse America’s role as the world’s lone superpower.

Joe McCarthy?aptly described by Evans as “grassroots, blue-collar all the way”?clearly defined the enemy of that day. So too should we define today’s threat.

Some McCarthy Mistakes

Stan Evans does not shy from acknowledging McCarthy’s mistakes. The senator, he says, was “a flawed champion” of his cause, adding, “It would have been better had he been less impulsive, more nuanced, more subtle in his judgments. On the other hand, somebody more nuanced and refined would not have dreamed of grappling with the forces deployed against him.” Whatever his faults, in the author’s verdict, McCarthy “was a good man and true.”

The media’s role in tilting the scales against the most controversial United States senator in the 20th Century began the very moment he burst on the national scene in February of 1950.

In nearly every previous book about McCarthy, including President Dwight Eisenhower’s memoirs, the story is told that the Wisconsin senator falsely stated in a Lincoln Day Republican speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that he had a list of 205 Communists who were then working in the State Department. McCarthy insisted he actually had said at Wheeling that he did indeed have a list?but a list of 57 in the State Department “who were either card-carrying Communists or certainly loyal to the Communist Party.”

A local reporter meeting McCarthy at the Wheeling airport asked for and got a  draft of the speech which included the “205” figure, but two witnesses swore that the senator warned Frank Desmond of the Wheeling Intelligencer that the speech was a preliminary draft and would be extensively revised before delivery. Desmond ran with the “205” version anyway and it was picked up by the AP.

The widely disseminated report that attributed the “205” figure to McCarthy was later discredited by congressional investigators dispatched twice to Wheeling. They effectively backed McCarthy’s version (A tape of the speech has not survived). That has not deterred newspapers, broadcasters, and biased or lazy “historians” from repeating it without doing the necessary fact-checking?certainly a classic validation that truth rarely catches up with widely disseminated lies.

How did the “205” figure make its way even to the rough draft of the speech? In a two-hour interview with AIM, Evans explained that McCarthy was getting “bits and pieces” of information in real time from several investigations?by congressional committees, the FBI, the Justice Department, and the State Department itself. The State department cover-up allowed Communists to “resign” with no stigma, only to pop up later in other government positions.

The Facts

From the get-go, the media-abetting political firestorm over such side issues as what McCarthy said or did not say at Wheeling tended (not accidentally) to obscure the substance of what he was saying.

Media errors on McCarthy abound, even on such basics as which body of Congress of which he was a member. Evans identifies the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post as having carried articles mentioning “Senator Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. [HUAC]” One, McCarthy was a senator, never a member of the House. No senator can be a member of a House committee, let alone chairman of it.  Two, if writers for the “prestige” media don’t know that Congress is a bicameral legislature, how can we expect them to understand much else, including the difference between 205 and 57?

Even the popular TV show “Touched by an Angel” in 1997 ran an episode imputing the Hollywood “blacklist” of Communist actors (portrayed as innocents) to HUAC which?it was implied?was run by Joe McCarthy.

The New York Times (the “newspaper of record”) ran an obituary on an 88-year old professor named Oscar Shaftel who had refused to answer questions about Communist connections by “the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee headed by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.” The reality: That panel was headed by Senator William Jenner, not by McCarthy whose Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had nothing to do with Shaftel. 

After Evans persisted for six weeks (to no avail) in demanding that the Times do a correction, he went to AIM founder Reed Irvine, who wrote directly to the Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Sr. That did the trick. The correction finally appeared on a Labor Day Friday next to a correction on the identification of birds in Brooklyn.

Drew Pearson Attacks

It would be hard to find a more savage anti-McCarthy journalist than the gossip-mongering sensationalist Drew Pearson. No single member of the media of that time was more hell-bent on ruining lives of good Americans and smearing the reputations of those getting in his way.

On the floor of the Senate, McCarthy cited a Civil Service Commission security memo and sworn testimony of an ex-communist identifying David Karr?a legman for Pearson?as a Red agent, Communist Party member, a former reporter for the Communist Party’s  Daily Worker, and a writer for the Communist-front publication Fight. McCarthy said Karr’s Red background manifested itself in Pearson’s columns, which directed much of their venom at the senator.

A howl of protest went up from Senator Clinton Anderson (D-N.M.) and others that an “upstanding newsman” had been besmirched by McCarthy. But in more recent times, the release of decoded “Venona” Soviet documents revealed Karr as “a competent KGB source” and “a prominent Western financier,” the latter because of what Evans calls “his linkage to the bizarre Moscow front man Armand Hammer.”

But Pearson’s choice of “ultra-left” legmen did not stop there. Blacklisted by History recounts the notoriously-infiltrated World War II agency?the Office of War Information (OWI). Among its employees, Evans reports, was Julia Bazer, who took the Fifth Amendment when asked if she were a Communist Party member. Bazer was the sister of Pearson reporter Andrew Older. Mr. Older had been identified by undercover operative Mary Markward as a Communist agent. His wife also had been so identified.

The most focused media smear on Senator McCarthy was Edward R. Murrow’s totally distorted profile of the Wisconsin senator on his televised “See it Now” broadcast (See Aim Report “Looney Clooney Smears Senator McCarthy” – January-A, 2006)

Murrow’s attack on McCarthy included a film clip wherein Democrats on McCarthy’s committee?in McCarthy’s absence?poured sympathy on Annie Lee Moss. This despite the fact that Moss had been identified by undercover operative Markward as a member of the Communist Party of the District of Columbia. The FBI had become concerned that Moss had suddenly been shifted to the position of code clerk for the Army Signal Corps. McCarthy’s not illogical question: Why would an Army cafeteria worker?a Communist?with no known background in this highly sensitive work be offered that job seemingly out of the blue? This came to McCarthy’s attention when his panel was probing the remnants of the (Julius and Ethel) Rosenberg spy ring at Ft. Monmouth, where lax security procedures remained after the Rosenbergs were executed.

Evans notes that neither in the 2005 George Clooney film “Good Night and Good Luck,” nor in the original 1954 Ed Murrow presentation is any evidence cited to indicate that Mrs. Moss was an innocent victim. In Murrow’s case, the failure to tell the whole story might have been more excusable since many facts in the case were not publicly known then, “though had Murrow and Co. been the crack journalists they professed to be, they could have dug out the facts” from hearing transcripts.

“In the case of the Clooney film, there is no excuse whatever, as the truth about the case is fully available to anyone who bothers to review the SACB [Subversive Activities Control Board] reports and archives of [the FBI],” writes the author.

Clooney even admits he knew Annie Lee Moss was a Communist. The issue, he insists, was that “she has a right to face her accuser.”

“If Clooney was indeed aware of the copious evidence on the case, as he should have been in presuming to inform the world about it, he certainly disguised this knowledge in his movie,” Evans retorts.

Evans’ intrepid shoe-leather sleuthing unearthed an FBI report showing that days before the Senate  hearing shown in the Murrow/Clooney shows, the Bureau had fully briefed the Democrats on McCarthy’s committee that Annie Lee Moss was in fact a Communist. Yet these same committee Democrats sympathized with her at McCarthy’s expense. Evans says by then, committee Democrats were aiding the Eisenhower administration’s effort to bring down Senator McCarthy. Eisenhower was surrounded by elitists and Wall-Streeters who played on the generals’ concern that the Monmouth probe would give the Army a bad name.

Official “History”

In his footnotes to the 2003 release of theretofore sealed McCarthy hearings, the Senate’s associate historian Donald Ritchie tries to trash the credibility of undercover FBI informer Mary Markward (again, a prime witness against Annie Lee Moss). Ritchie misapplies the SACB’s statement that “Markward’s testimony should be assayed with caution.”

Herein lies a classic example of what Evans calls “demonstrable obfuscations.” The SACB comment had nothing to do with Markward’s testimony against Annie Lee Moss. Rather, the SACB quote pertained to “the issue of payment from the FBI” and the way Markward construed it. The SACB (and the FBI) fully vindicated Markward in the Moss affair. “All of which,” according to Evans, “is the exact reverse of the impression conveyed to the American public by the associate historian of the Senate.” 

The Annie-Lee-Moss-as McCarthy “victim”  falsehood has been swallowed whole by such writers as William Shannon in the New York Post in 1958 (then a left-wing paper), and in 2003 by Ken Ringle of The Washington Post and Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal. Evans’ efforts to get these papers to make corrections were shunted aside, rejected outright, or simply ignored.

It was the Senate’s “50-year rule” that required that the McCarthy Committee’s closed-door “executive session” hearings of 1953-54 be made public. In the resulting nearly 5,000-page document dump, the then committee chairman, liberal Republican Susan Collins, could count on Ritchie to put an anti-McCarthy spin on it.

In Ritchie’s own media-related memoirs, he includes a chapter entitled “The Friends of Joe McCarthy.” Therein he notes the demise of conservative columnists and commentators of that era. With some caveats, Ritchie’s line comes down to the disingenuous scenario that some or all of these pundits and newspapers fell out of favor with the public entirely because of their support of McCarthy.

That is at best a half-truth, and not necessarily attributable to a spontaneous public rejection of McCarthy. What Ritchie might have acknowledged was the high-gear pressure applied by the Left (including the Communist Party and its front groups) to gin up boycotts of businesses that advertised with “the friends of Joe McCarthy.”

In 1960, Fulton Lewis, Jr. told this writer of threats against his advertisers because of his coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings. Lewis survived?albeit with fewer radio stations?because of local advertisers at the grassroots who approved of his reportage on the developments at the hearings?parts of the story that the Murrows and the Pearsons ignored. The effort to shut up conservative commentators of that era bore some resemblance to today’s massive drive to shut down conservative talk radio.

Other McCarthy Cases

Following their earlier bachelor days when he and McCarthy were double-dating?Jack Anderson, another legman (and ultimately successor) to Drew Pearson, had given McCarthy a “raw” Pearson file on Truman White House speechwriter David Demarest Lloyd. Anderson later claimed to be “thunderstruck” when McCarthy supposedly read the “incomplete” file on the Senate floor. Those comments were picked up by other writers. If those scribes?including Anderson himself?had done some checking, they would have known McCarthy did not rely on “raw” unverified information. These were official findings of a congressional study, including information secured by an undercover agent. Lloyd and his wife were tied to Communist-related organizations (including the National Lawyers Guild and the Washington Book shop), and a relative had a “financial interest” in the Communist Daily Worker.

Gustavo Duran, veteran of the pro-Communist side in the Spanish Civil War, had worked for the State Department, and then moved “with evident ease” to employment at the United Nations. Duran was one of McCarthy’s first cases. Time magazine made the Olympian judgment that “Duran, never a Red, was definitely and clearly anti-Communist.” McCarthy responded by citing a 1947 memo from one of  Time’s own correspondents  that Duran was considered “flatly” to be MVD (KGB). Duran’s commander in the fight for Communist control of Spain in the thirties praised “Comrade Duran” as “dedicated to the party.”

Leonard Mins, a veteran Communist foot-soldier, was contracted to write manuals for the U.S. Armed Forces where he dealt with classified material. He took the Fifth before McCarthy’s committee.

The media have said over and over that McCarthy never exposed a single Communist?a statement made, for example, by CBS’s Eric Sevareid right after McCarthy died in 1957. That is false. Just a few (of many)  of McCarthy’s cases?other than those mentioned above?included T. A. Bisson, Mary Jane Keeney, Cedric Belfrage, Solomon Adler, Franz Neumann, and William Remington.

I asked Evans if he thought McCarthy would have fared better if today’s conservative talk radio had been around. His response was probably not.

While the usual suspects of the left-wing media powerhouses did a non-stop smear job on the senator, there were more conservatives in the mainstream media than there are today.

McCarthy and/or anti-communist probes were backed by Col. Robert McCormick’s Chicago Tribune and  Washington Times-Herald (including Walter Trohan and Willard Edwards), David Lawrence’s U.S. News and World Report, the Hearst chain, Westbrook Pegler, George Sokolsky, Fulton Lewis, New York Telegram and Sun, New York Daily News, Washington Daily News. All of these have either shut down or acquired new leftward ownership (publications) or died (individual commentators).

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed postcard to the rock star Bono asking him to request Congressional hearings into the fraudulent use of AIDS money by the United Nations.

Also, order AIM’s new book on the Fairness Doctrine, The Death of Talk Radio?, and Stan Evans’ new book on Joe McCarthy, Blacklisted by History.

*Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer & broadcast journalist.

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