McCarthy's Response to Edward R. Murrow
This is the full April 6, 1954 episode of CBS' See It Now, in which Senator Joseph McCarthy responds to Edward R. Murrow's on-air critique of the Senator.
Murrow's broadcast, simply titled "A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy," came after months of careful consideration within the CBS newsroom. At the height of McCarthy's influence, it was dangerous for one to challenge him so directly, lest they be accused of subversion. But with the 1951 debut of his See It Now program, Murrow was in a unique position. He was a household name, highly respected for his live radio reports from London during World War II. And now, through the still-nascent medium of television, he had a platform to speak to the whole country.
Some of Murrow's colleagues, particularly Bill Downs, urged him to denounce McCarthy. In her biography of Edward R. Murrow, A.M. Sperber writes: "Downs, one of the media's angry men, kept after Murrow, one of the rising chorus intoning, Do something about McCarthy. Not one of these clever let-the-audience-decide numbers. Hit him head-on. Hard. Forget radio; everybody bitched about McCarthy on radio. It had to be TV, and only he, Murrow, had the access."
Others, including the show's producer Fred Friendly, maintained that it would be better to wait. The CBS News team was especially concerned about reprisal in an industry plagued by witch-hunts and blacklisting. In 1950, CBS reporters Howard K. Smith and Alexander Kendrick —both of them Murrow Boys—were among the 151 news and entertainment figures named in the infamous Red Channels list of alleged "Red Fascists and their sympathizers" in the broadcast industry. Four years later, CBS employees were still anticipating backlash in the time leading up to McCarthy's response.
Thanks to Noah C. Cline for tracking down this broadcast footage. The text below is adapted from the transcript available on American Rhetoric, and the maps McCarthy refers to are taken from the broadcast.
April 6, 1954
EDWARD R. MURROW: One month ago tonight we presented a report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. We labeled it as controversial. Most of that report consisted of words and pictures of the Senator. At that time we said, "If the Senator believes we have done violence to his words or pictures, if he desires to speak to answer himself, an opportunity will be afforded him on this program."
The Senator sought the opportunity; asked for a delay of three weeks because he said he was very busy and he wished adequate time to prepare his reply. We agreed. We supplied the Senator with a kinescope of that program of March 9, and with such scripts and recordings as he requested. We placed no restrictions upon the manner or method of the presentation of his reply, and we suggested that we would not take time to comment on this particular program. The Senator chose to make his reply on film. Here now is Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Junior Senator from Wisconsin.
SENATOR JOSEPH MCCARTHY: Good evening. Mr. Edward R. Murrow, Educational Director of the Columbia Broadcasting System, devoted his program to an attack on the work of the United States Senate Investigating Committee, and on me personally as its chairman. Now over the past four years he has made repeated attacks upon me and those fighting communists.
Now, of course, neither Joe McCarthy nor Edward R. Murrow is of any great importance as individuals. We are only important in our relation to the great struggle to preserve our American liberties. The Senate Investigating Committee has forced out of government, and out of important defense plants, communists engaged in the Soviet conspiracy. And you know, it's interesting to note that the viciousness of Murrow's attacks is in direct ratio to our success in digging out communists.
Now, ordinarily I would not take time out from the important work at hand to answer Murrow. However, in this case I feel justified in doing so because Murrow is a symbol, the leader, and the cleverest of the jackal pack which is always found at the throat of anyone who dares to expose individual communists and traitors.
I am compelled by the facts to say to you that Mr. Edward R. Murrow, as far back as twenty years ago, was engaged in propaganda for communist causes. For example, the Institute of International Education, of which he was the acting director, was chosen to act as a representative by a Soviet agency to do a job which would normally be done by the Russian secret police. Mr. Murrow sponsored a communist school in Moscow. In the selection of American students and teachers who were to attend, Mr. Murrow's organization acted for the Russian espionage and propaganda organization known as VOKS (V-O-K-S). And many of those selected were later exposed as communists. Murrow's organization selected such notorious communists as Isadore Begun, David Zablodowsky—incidentally, Zablodowsky was forced out of the United Nations, when my chief counsel presented his case to the grand jury and gave a picture of his communist activities.
Now, Mr. Murrow, by his own admission, was a member of the IWW—that's the Industrial Workers of the World—a terrorist organization cited as subversive by an attorney general of the United States, who stated that it was an organization which seeks, and I quote: "to alter the government of the United States by unconstitutional means." Now, other government committees have had before them actors, screenwriters, motion picture producers, and others, who admitted communist affiliations but pleaded youth or ignorance. Now, Mr. Murrow can hardly make the same plea.
On March 9 of this year, Mr. Murrow, a trained reporter who had traveled all over the world, who is the Educational Director of CBS, followed implicitly the communist line, as laid down in the last six months; laid down not only by the communist Daily Worker, but by the communist magazine Political Affairs and by the National Conference of the Communist Party of the United States of America.
Now the question: why is it important to you, the people of America, to know why the Educational Director and the Vice President of CBS so closely follow the Communist Party line? To answer that question we must turn back the pages of history.
A little over a hundred years ago, a little group of men in Europe conspired to deliver the world to a new system, to communism. Under their system, the individual was nothing, the family was nothing; God did not even exist. Their theory was that an all-powerful State should have the power of life or death over its citizens without even a trial; that everything and everybody belonged to the rulers of the states. They openly wrote—nothing's secret about it—that, in their efforts to gain power, they would be justified in doing anything. They would be justified in following the trail of deceit, lies, terror, murder, treason, blackmail. All these things were elevated to virtues in the communist rule book. If a convert to communism could be persuaded that he was a citizen of the world, it of course would be much easier to make him a traitor to his own country.
Now, for seventy years the communists made little progress. Let me show you a map of the world as it stood in the middle of the First World War in 1917, before the Russian Revolution. You will see there is not a single foot of ground on the face of the globe under the domination or control of the communists, and bear in mind that this was only thirty-six years ago.
In 1917 we were engaged in a great world war in defense of our way of life and in defense of American liberty. The Kaiser was obliged to divide his armies and fight in both the Eastern and the Western fronts. In the midst of the war, the Russian people overthrew their Czarist master and they set up a democratic form of government under the leadership of Alexander Kerensky. Now, Kerensky's government instantly pledged all-out support to the Allies. At this instant the Imperial German government secretly financed the return to Russia of seven communist exiles led by Nikolai Lenin, exiles who had been forced to flee the country. A rather important event in the history of the world.
Now once in Russia, by the same methods which the communists are employing in the United States today, they undermined the Army; they undermined the Navy; the civilian heads of the government. And in one hundred days those seven communists were literally the masters of Russia. Now, with all of the wealth of the nation at their command, they proceeded to finance communist parties in every country in the world. They sent to those countries trained propagandists and spies. In every country they of course had to find glib, clever men like Edward R. Murrow who would sponsor invitations to students and teachers to attend indoctrinational schools in Moscow, exactly as Murrow has done. They trained communists in every country in the world. Their sole purpose was to infiltrate the government, and once communists were in government they in turn brought others in.
Now let us look at the map of the world as it was twenty years ago. At that time there was one country with 180,000,000 people in communist chains.
Now let us look at a map of the world as of tonight, this sixth day of April, nineteen hundred and fifty-four. Over one-third of the earth's area under communist control and 800,000,000 people in communist chains, in addition to the 800,000,000 in communist chains in Europe and Asia. Finally, the communists have gained a foothold and a potential military base here in our half of the world, in Guatemala, with the communists seeping down into the Honduras.
My good friends, how much of this was achieved by military force and how much was achieved by traitors and communist-line propagandists in our own government and in other free governments?
Let's start in Europe, if we may. They took by military force a little piece of Finland. In the same way they took three small Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. They took half of Poland in the same way. They acquired the rest of Poland through Polish traitors and communists in our own government, who gave American dollars and American support to the communists in Poland. They took over Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary without firing a single shot. They did this by the infiltration of communists in the key spots in the governments.
The communists took over Czechoslovakia without firing a shot. This they did by the infiltration of communists into the Czechoslovakian government also. And listen to what a high official in the anticommunist government of Czechoslovakia had to say about the communist enslavement of Czechoslovakia. Here's what he said. He said:
"In my country, the pattern was identical to what it is in the United States. If anyone, before the communists took over, dared to attack those communists who were preparing and shaping the policy of my government—shaping the policy to betray my people—he was promptly attacked and destroyed by a combination of communists, fellow travelers, and those unthinking people who thought they were serving the cause of liberalism and progress, but who were actually serving the cause of the most reactionary credo of all times: communism."
Still quoting: "Because of those people, night has fallen upon my nation and slavery upon my people."
Now, shifting to another area of the world, to the East, how about this vast land area and the teeming masses of China? Let's just take a look at that map, if you please. Keep in mind that a few short years ago China was a free nation friendly to the United States. Now, were the—were—let's take a look at that map. Were those 400,000,000 Chinese captured by force of arms? Certainly not. They were delivered. Delivered to communist slave masters by the jackal pack of communist-line propagandists, including the friends of Mr. Edward R. Murrow, who day after day shouted to the world that the Chinese Communists were agrarian reformers, and that our ally, the Republic of China, represented everything that was evil and wicked.
Now, my good friends, if there were no communists in our government, would we have consented to and connived to turn over all of our Chinese friends to the Russians? Now, my good friends, if there had been no communists in our government, would we have rewarded them with all of Manchuria, half of the Kuril Islands, and one half of Korea? Now how many Americans—how many Americans have died and will die because of this sellout to Communist Russia? God only knows.
If there were no communists in our government, why did we delay—for eighteen months—delay our research on the hydrogen bomb, even though our intelligence agencies were reporting day after day that the Russians were feverishly pushing their development of the H-bomb? And may I say to America tonight that our nation may well die—our nation may well die—because of that eighteen-months deliberate delay. And I ask you, who caused it? Was it loyal Americans? Or was it traitors in our government?
It is often said by the left wing that it is sufficient to fight communism in Europe and Asia, but that communism is not a domestic American issue. But the record, my good friends, is that the damage has been done by cleverly calculated subversion at home, and not from abroad. It is this problem of subversion that our committee faces.
Now, let us very quickly glance at some of the work of our committee—some of the work it's done in slightly over a year's time. For example, 238 witnesses were examined in public session; 367 witnesses examined in executive session; 84 witnesses refused to testify as to communist activities on the ground that, if they told the truth, they might go to jail; 24 witnesses with communist backgrounds have been discharged from jobs in which they were handling secret, top secret, confidential material, individuals who were exposed before our committee.
Of course you can't measure the success of a committee by box score, based on the number of communist heads that have rolled from secret jobs. It is completely impossible to even estimate the effect on our government of the day-to-day plodding exposure of communists. And that is, of course, why the Murrows bleed.
For example, the exposure of only one Fifth Amendment communist in the Government Printing Office, an office having access to secret material from almost every government agency, resulted in an undisclosed number of suspensions. It resulted in the removal of the loyalty board, and the revamping of all the royal—of the loyalty rules, so that we do have apparently a good, tight loyalty set up in the Printing Office at this time. Also disclosure of communists in the military and the radar laboratories resulted in the abolition of the Pentagon board which had cleared and ordered reinstated communists who had for years been handling government secrets. Also, as a result of those hearings, Army orders have been issued to prevent a recurrence of the Major Peress scandal, which was exposed by the committee.
Now to attempt to evaluate the effect of the work of an investigating committee would be about as impossible as to attempt to evaluate the effect of well-trained watchdogs upon the activities of potential burglars.
We Americans live in a free world, a world where we can stand as individuals, where we can go to the church of our own choice and worship God as we please, each in his own fashion; where we can freely speak our opinions on any subject, or on any man. Now whether we shall continue to so live has come to issue now. We will soon know whether we are going to go on living that kind of life, or whether we are going to live the kind of life that 800,000,000 slaves live under communist domination. The issue is simple. It is the issue of life or death for our civilization.
Now, Mr. Murrow said on this program—and I quote—he said: "The actions of the Junior Senator from Wisconsin have given considerable comfort to the enemy." That is the language of our statute of treason—rather strong language.
If I am giving comfort to our enemies, I ought not to be in the Senate. If, on the other hand, Mr. Murrow is giving comfort to our enemies, he ought not to be brought into the homes of millions of Americans by the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Now, this is a question which can be resolved with very little difficulty. What do the communists think of me? And what do the communists think of Mr. Murrow? One of us is on the side of the communists; the other is against the communists, against communist slavery.
Now, the communists have three official publications in America, and these are not ordinary publications. They have been officially determined to be the transmission belts through which communists in America are instructed as to the party line, or the position which communist writers and playwrights must take—also, of course, telecasters, broadcasters.
The first of these is a booklet which I would like to show you, if I may. It's entitled "The Main Report," delivered at the National Conference of the Communist Party of the USA, published in New York in October 1953.
The report states, quote: "The struggle against McCarthyism is developing currently along the following main lines"—keep in mind this is the communist publication giving instructions to members of the party—"...along the following main lines: struggle against witch hunting, struggle against investigations of the McCarthy/McCarran type, and defense of the victims of McCarthyism such as Owen Lattimore, etc. In addition there is the direct attack on McCarthy." May I ask you, does that sound somewhat like the program of Edward R. Murrow of March 9 over this same station?
Now, in this report the communists do not hesitate to instruct the comrades that their fight on McCarthy is only a means to a larger end. Again, let me quote from the instructions from the Communist Party to its membership, from page thirty-three. I quote:
"Our main task is to mobilize the masses for the defeat of the foreign and domestic policy of the Eisenhower administration and for the defeat of the Eisenhower regime itself. The struggle against McCarthyism contributes to this general objective."
Just one more quotation, if I may, from page thirty-one of these instructions from the Communist Party to its members. I quote: "Since the elections, McCarthyism has emerged as a menace of major proportions." I think maybe we know what the Communist Party means by "a menace of major proportions." They mean a menace of major proportions to the Communist Party.
Now let's take thirty seconds or so, if we may, to look a little further to see who's giving comfort to our enemies. Here is a communist Daily Worker of March 9, containing seven articles and a principal editorial, all attacking McCarthy. And the same issue lists Mr. Murrow's program as—listen to this—"One of tonight's best bets on TV."
And then—just one more—here's the issue of March 17. Its principal front page article is an attack on McCarthy. It has three other articles attacking McCarthy. It has a special article by William Z. Foster, the head of the Communist Party in America—and now under indictment on charges of attempting to overthrow this government by force and violence—this article by Foster, praising Edward R. Murrow.
Just one more, if I may impose on your time: the issue of March 26. This issue has two articles attacking witch hunting, three articles attacking McCarthy, a cartoon of McCarthy, and an article in praise of Mr. Edward R. Murrow.
And now I would like to also show you the communist political organ, entitled Political Affairs. The lead article is a report dated November 21, 1953 of the National Committee of the Communist Party of the United States, attacking McCarthy and telling how the loyal members of the Communist Party can serve their cause by getting rid of this awful McCarthy.
Now, as you know, Owen Lattimore has been named as a conscious, articulate instrument of the communist conspiracy. He's been so named by the Senate Internal Security Committee. He is now under criminal indictment for perjury with respect to testimony in regard to his communist activities. In his book Ordeal by Slander he says, and I think I can quote him verbatim, he says: "I owe a very special debt to a man I have never met. I must mention at least Edward R. Murrow."
Then there's the book by Harold Laski, admittedly the greatest communist propagandist of our time in England. In his book Reflections on the Revolution of Our Times he dedicates the book to "my friends E.R. Murrow and Latham Tichener, with affection."
Now, I am perfectly willing to let the American people decide who's giving comfort to our enemies. Much of the documentation which we have here on the table tonight will not be available to the American people by way of television. However, this will all be made available to you within the next two weeks.
In conclusion, may I say that under the shadow of the most horrible and destructive weapons that man has ever devised, we fight to save our country, our homes, our churches, and our children. To this cause, ladies and gentlemen, I have dedicated and will continue to dedicate all that I have and all that I am. And I want to assure you that I will not be deterred by the attacks of the Murrows, the Lattimores, the Fosters, the Daily Worker, or the Communist Party itself.
Now, I make no claim to leadership. In complete humility, I do ask you and every American who loves this country to join with me.
MURROW: That was a film of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, presented at our invitation. It was in response to a program we presented on March 9th. This reporter undertook to make no comment at this time, but naturally reserved his right to do so subsequently.
Good night, and good luck.