United States Senator Joseph McCarthy was censured for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonour and disrepute.”
Joseph McCarthy was elected to the Senate for the state of Wisconsin in 1946. He was thrust into the public eye in February 1950 after a speech to the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia in which he claimed that 205 communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department. Following his re-election in 1952, McCarthy became chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Government Operations and of its permanent subcommittee on investigations.
McCarthy used his position to launch a series of high profile investigations of people he claimed to have Communist sympathies. Although his tactics were condemned by politicians including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, McCarthy’s investigations stretched from Voice of America news service to the United States Army. Known as the Second Red Scare, the first having begun after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, more than 2,000 government employees lost their jobs in what some viewed as a witch-hunt.
Support for McCarthy declined rapidly after the television broadcast of the Army-McCarthy hearings in April and May 1954. The Senator was accused of pressuring the army to give his aides preferential treatment, and the hearings exposed his bullying tactics. The army’s chief counsel, Joseph Nye Welch, even interrupted McCarthy to ask, ‘Have you no sense of decency, sir?’
Meanwhile Edward R. Murrow’s popular documentary program See It Now ran a negative piece on the Senator that further turned public opinion against him. On 2 December 1954 the Senate condemned McCarthy for conduct ‘contrary to Senate traditions’ by 67 votes to 22.