Who is Joseph McCarthy, "Face the Nation"'s first-ever guest 65 years ago

McCarthy on inaugural "Face the Nation"

"Face the Nation" marks its historic 65th anniversary of being on the air November 7th where its first guest back in 1954 was none other than Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin -- a firebrand politician who was in the throws of his own political turmoil not unlike the climate in Washington surrounding the impending impeachment trial of President Trump.

McCarthy, hell-bent on driving out communist subversion at home and abroad, appeared on "Face the Nation"'s inaugural episode in an attempt to sway public opinion in his favor as he faced censure by a special session of the U.S. Senate just one month after his appearance. 

60th anniversary of Edward R. Murrow's "See It Now"

A few things to know about McCarthy:

  • McCarthy is most known for his efforts during the height of the "Red Scare" of the 1950's to seek out and expose communists and other left-leaning "loyalty risks" he deemed to pose a threat to the homeland out of the U.S. government 
  • McCarthy specifically blamed failures in American foreign policy of the 1940s and 50s on the Communist infiltration of the U.S. government  -- at the time, the Republican claimed to have a list of hundreds of known members of the Communist Party still working in top levels of the U.S. State Department 
  • A Senate subcommittee launched a probe of McCarthy's claims but found no proof of subversive activity and led many of his Republican and Democratic colleagues to publicly disavow his tactics
  • The volatile combination of a hyper-suspicious Cold War-era Washington and McCarthy's outlandish accusations of some of the top brass in DC -- including the U.S. Army --  led to McCarthy's highly-publicized Senate hearings into alleged communist subversion and espionage that has now become synonymous with the term "McCarthyism" 
  • In March 1954, legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow aired "See It Now", a piece of television history that helped to examine the questionable and dangerous methods of Sen. McCarthy. Murrow's on-screen summation of McCarthy's abusive conduct of the Senate helped to bring the Wisconsin lawmaker down. 
  • The public hearings arguably tarnished McCarthy's public image, undermined his charges, and prompted his censure by the U.S. Senate. 
  • McCarthy would go on to keep his job but lost his power as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations -- he died just three years after his dramatic censure at age 48. 
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    Emily Tillett is the digital producer at "Face the Nation"