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Executive sessions of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, 2003

In 1954 Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin temporarily relinquished chairmanship of the Senate subcommittee when he became the subject of its investigation. His testimony revealed inconsistencies and falsified evidence. When McCarthy accused a young colleague of Army lawyer Joseph Welch of subversion, Welch exclaimed, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” The Senate censured McCarthy, and his power was broken.

General Collections, Library of Congress

Executive sessions of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, 2003

The Senate Investigates One of Its Own

Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin grabbed the nation’s attention in 1950 when he alleged communist influence in the U.S. Department of State. He pursued and expanded his allegations as chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Four years later, McCarthy and Committee Counsel Roy Cohn became subjects of that committee’s investigation when the Army charged them with influence peddling to help a former aide. The hearings were televised, and McCarthy’s behavior before a national audience precipitated his downfall.

In 1954 the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations examined conflicting accusations between the U.S. Army and Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. Televised hearings revealed McCarthy’s underhanded tactics in identifying political subversives, ultimately ending his career.