Monday, December 2, 2013


December 2, 2013


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) The Senate of the United States voted 65-22 to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy* (R-Wisconsin) 59 years ago today, December 2, 1954.

The censure resolution was for 'conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.'

Joseph McCarthy 
Library of Congress Photo 

Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, recuperating from a back operation, did not cast a vote and was the only senator not to go on record against McCarthy.

McCarthy was a Kennedy family friend and did not campaign for fellow Republican Henry Cabot Lodge in the 1952 Massachusetts senate race against JFK.  

In return, Senator Kennedy made no public statements critical of Senator McCarthy.

Thomas Maier writes...

"The Kennedy Family's affinity for Joe McCarthy was inexplicable unless viewed in the religious and ethnic complexity of its time."

Joe Kennedy, Sr. became a close friend and McCarthy dated JPK's daughter, Pat.  The Kennedy patriarch was a big contributor to McCarthy's political campaigns.

Maier says...

"The Kennedys never really gave up their emotional ties to Joe McCarthy.  Though they were appalled by his...excesses, they believed (he) understood the worldwide threat of communism and that he was the only American doing something about it."

The road to the censure began at a Lincoln Day address on February 9, 1950 when Senator McCarthy, speaking to the Republican Women's Club of Wheeling, West Virginia, said he had a list of 205 employees in the State Department who were communists.

McCarthy's efforts to erode alleged communists out of the Federal government gained him unprecedented power and prestige.  History books refer to it as the "Age of McCarthyism."

By 1954, McCarthy's lack of evidence and use of bullying tactics were observed by millions of Americans on live television in the Army-McCarthy Hearings.
Public opinion quickly turned against the Senator.  

After his censure, McCarthy lost credibility and was virtually ignored by his fellow senators and the press. His physical and emotional well-being declined while his dependence on alcohol increased.

Senator McCarthy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital on March 2, 1957 at the age of 48. McCarthy's funeral service was held at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 

Bob Kennedy attended the service representing the Kennedy family.  Seventy US Senators were present at the service.

Joe McCarthy USMC

*Joseph McCarthy was born in Grande Chute, Wisconsin.  He earned his law degree at Marquette in 1935 and became the youngest circuit judge in Wisconsin history.  Having served in the Marine Corps in WWII, JM was elected to the US Senate in 1946 and re-elected in 1952.


"The Kennedys:  America's Emerald Kings," by Thomas Maier, Basic Books, New York, 2003.