Talk Radio Backed McCarthyism Before and After ‘Have You No Sense of Decency’ Speech
(On June 9, 1954, Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army, lashed out at Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, with the now famous phrase, “Have you no sense of decency.” It marked the beginning of the end of McCarthy’s investigations into communism. McCarthy was championed by many talk radio voices of his era, including Walter Winchell and Fulton Lewis Jr. Below are excerpts from The Right Frequency, an Amazon Best Seller, about McCarthyism and talk radio.)
FDR’s death was a blow to the country, but particularly one for Winchell.
“Winchell loved FDR and took his political bearings from FDR, so that when FDR dies, Winchell, like most of the country, in point of fact, lost his political bearings, and when one factors that in with the other side, that with the Nazi threat gone, Walter Winchell has no adversary,” Gabler said. “And Walter Winchell is a man who lives an adversarial life. Everything in Walter Winchell is predicated on the notion that he is sounding the alarm for Americans.”
So that alarm would be the communist threat.Roy Cohn, Sen. Joe McCarthy’s chief aid, befriended Walter Winchell and brought him into McCarthy’s circle. Like FDR, McCarthy knew how important finessing a giant media personality could be.
In one broadcast Winchell warned Americans, “And now to bea the hand around the clock. International News Service—January 10th is the date for a mass meeting of the communist leaders in Washington, D.C.—behind closed doors, of course. The real purpose, however, will be to protest the trial of the 12 leading commie chiefs in the United States.”
He went on to accuse Lucille Ball of being a communist. Her husband Desi Arnaz responded, “The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and not even that is real.” After McCarthy became disreputable in the public’s mind, so did many who aligned themselves with him. In the case of Winchell, it was McCarthy and a number of other factors that led to his decline.
Fulton Lewis Jr. continued on his radio show and had his friend Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy on as a frequent guest.
“When you know an individual to be attempting to do a public service, a patriotic service, and you see him maligned by groups which are not thinking in the public interest, you have a tendency to be a little over-generous with the guy,” Fulton Lewis said of Joe McCarthy.
Look magazine called Lewis one of McCarthy’s “masterminds.” Lewis loaned one of his ghostwriters, Ed Nellor to write speeches for McCarthy. McCarthy’s office provided Nellor with material about alleged communists in government for Lewis’s broadcasts.
The truth is that McCarthy had many friends in the media—Washington reporters hungry for a scoop. But Fulton Lewis was indeed his staunchest advocated on the national scene. And he did not desert McCarthy when he became the most hated senator, censured by his peers—branded as conducting witch hunts.
This led to Lewis dwindling in audience, as the public saw McCarthy and those who defended him as discredited, another truism that has been challenged in recent years.
After McCarthy’s death, Lewis said, “I think Joseph McCarthy did a great deal of good for the country. I think he was one of the most courageous fighters against Communism that I have ever seen on the national picture. I did not agree with everything that he did and told him so on frequent occasions when I disagreed. I do think, however, that he gave his life for the cause of anti-communism in America and for this I think he deserves great credit.”