Flash Back - 1954

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Welch versus Joseph McCarthy 1-2

Welch versus Joseph McCarthy 2-2

McCarthy Communist Hearings



"Have you no Decency!"

Senator Joseph McCarthy


Special Army Counsel Joseph Welch, left, calls Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., right, a 'reckless and cruel' man at the Army-McCarthy hearings on June 9, 1954. (AP Photo/File)

Fifty years ago today, on June 9, 1954, one courageous man stood up against Senator Joseph McCarthy in a dramatic moment that marked the beginning of the end of the Wisconsin senator's cruel campaign of intimidation and red-baiting.

During nationally televised Congressional hearings, known as the Army-McCarthy hearings, on alleged communist infiltration of the US Army, Joseph Welch, a lawyer from the Boston firm of Hale and Dorr and the Army's legal defender finally had enough one day.

In an attempt to deflect Welch's tough questioning of Roy Cohn, McCarthy's infamous legal counsel, McCarthy broke an agreement he had made with Welch and publicly labeled a young lawyer at Welch's firm as a communist for having worked briefly with the National Lawyers Guild.

After weeks of patiently dealing with McCarthy, Welch finally let him have it:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness... Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale and Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr.

It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar, needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I'm a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me...

Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

Soon after, the hall broke out in applause. McCarthy didn't know what hit him and asked Cohn in astonishment, "What happened?"

Millions of Americans saw that moment broadcast live on ABC Television and read about it the next day in the newspapers, many of which were headlined, "Have you no decency."

Americans suddenly woke up to McCarthy's ugliness.

So now we find ourselves in a similar time, when the government's top officials, from the attorney general to the secretary of defense to the President, have been shredding the Constitution and international agreements in order to push their illegal wars, torture chambers, and attacks on free speech.

And now, as Americans and for the sake of America, we pray for another Joseph Welch to stand up and say, "Have you no decency!"




This reporter exposed Joe McCarthy for his witchhunt that ruined the reputations of many Americans during the 50's. many of these people were also Blacklisted and unable to get work because they were falsely labeled as Communists by Joe McCarthy and his party.

Edward R. Murrow