America's Retreat from Victory - Joseph McCarthy

Press Reaction to McCarthy's Speech

This essay, describing the press reaction to his speech, was written by Joseph McCarthy and included in the appendix of the 'America's Retreat from Victory.'

Generally speaking, the press reaction was extremely bad during the first few weeks after the Marshall speech was made. Columnist George Sokolsky recognized this when he wrote:

"The immediate newspaper reports were based not upon the Senator's 60,000-word speech, but on a supposition of what he might have said.

"In current journalism, this is called "high-lighting' and is generally inaccurate and distorted.

"So I waited until I could get a full copy of the speech; read the whole of 60,000 words and realized that the Senator had done a decent job of research and analysis.

". . . (His) bibliography is important because it shows not a single enemy—personal or political—of General Marshall, unless it be Winston Churchill, with whom Marshall did not see eye-to-eye during phases of the war.

"The point of this piece is to suggest that the speech ought to be read; ought to be taken seriously; and should be discussed.

"It is apparent throughout that Senator McCarthy, while not approving of General Marshall, devotes most of his long speech not to his own views but to quotations from others."

The bad press which the speech received fell roughly into three groups:

(1) The papers which honestly felt that Marshall was a "great hero" and that it was very wrong and un-American to give any part of his history which would tend to discredit him.

(2) A much more sizeable group of papers, the editorial reaction of which was based not upon the content of the speech but upon very abbreviated wire service reports thereon.

The best example of this group is a large eastern paper which editorialized vigorously against the Marshall speech, basing the editorial on misquotes from the speech. While the editor of this paper had differed energetically with me before, he had always based his editorials on the facts as they were. After reading his Marshall editorial, I sent him a copy of the speech, asking him to read it and point out where I had thrown any "mud" or done any of the "character assassination" he wrote of in his editorial.

The following excerpt from his letter answering me demonstrates the honesty of the typical American newspaperman:

"We are very grateful to you for Pointing our to us the errors in our editorial of June 18th. Believe me, our errors were unintentional. We went off half-cocked on the basis of a wire service story without checking your speech for ourselves."

(3) The third group, and of course the loudest, was made up of the official Communist papers such as the Daily Worker, which bitterly condemned McCarthy in a stream of editorials and colorfully lauded General Marshall as a "great hero." A few days after the Marshall speech the Daily Worker denounced General MacArthur and myself as the "two most vociferous architects of fascist propaganda."

"An integral part of the technique," wrote the Communist Daily Worker in referring to the "fascism" of General MacArthur and myself, "is the gutter insult hurled at individuals such as Truman, Acheson and Marshall, whose high positions, irrespective of their character, would in ordinary times protect them from personal attacks of this sort,"

Papers like the Compass, New York Post, Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Milwaukee Journal and Madison Capital-Times editorialized in almost the same words as the Daily Worker and with equal viciousness against the Marshall history.

There was no attempt to discuss the important documented facts in the speech taken from the memoirs and writings of more than 20 authors cither actively engaged in or closely associated with the events of the war and postwar period, Instead they. released a torrent of adjectives. In fact, one such newspaper editor wrote me following the Marshall speech and announced that he did not and would not read the "garbage" which I "dumped into the Congressional Record on June 14th," but that he would take care of me and discuss the speech in his editorial columns.

Following are some typical examples of the camp-following press's answer to this 60,000 word documented history of Marshall:

Milwaukee Journal: "Garbage . . . Berserk eruption. . . . New outburst of . . . Misstatements, misquotations, and vilification."

Madison Capital-Times: "Smear marathon. . . . Sickening show of demagogic smear attacks."

Chicago Sun: "Innuendoes, half-truths and deliberate misrepresentations. . .. Scurrilous type of attack."

Compass: "Cowardly smears and lies. . . . Wisconsin's rabble-rouser."

Washington Post: "Pipsqueak. . . . Foulness. . . . Barker's hoopla . . . . Same old hokum."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Outrageous performance. . .. Character assassination."

Columnist Stewart Alsop: "Evil smelling effort."

Columnist Marquis Childs: "Nasty political mud, . . . Mudslinging,"

Here is how one national magazine reported the Marshall speech:

" . . . an attack on Secretary of Defense George Marshall by Wisconsin's poison-tipped Joe McCarthy. Despite McCarthy's loud advance promise to expose "a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man," only a dozen Senators were on hand when he began. In familiar fashion, McCarthy twisted quotes, drew unwarranted conclusions from the facts he did get right . . . ."

It meant nothing to them, of course, that they could not find a single quotation that was twisted. Nor were they concerned about misquoting the record—a record which showed that I never even remotely promised to expose "a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history as man," but had merely promised to give a cold, documented history of one of the most powerful figures in American history.

In order to better understand the attitude of such magazines, it is important to review some of the adjectives used by them during my anti-Communist fight:

"Loud-mouthed . . . irresponsible . . . wretched burlesque . . . completely without evidence . hashed-over charges . . . . scarehead publicity .. . tired old loyalty cases . . . desperate gambler . . . conspiratorial secrecy . . . mad man . . . weasel worded statements . senatorial immunity . . . noisily charging . . . vituperative smear . . . wild charges."

When one analyzes the camp-following, left-wing "news" coverage and comment on a carefully and thoroughly documented speech such as the Marshall speech, the question that arises is:

Why the deliberate distortion and suppression?

A part of the answer lies perhaps in the facts recently disclosed by Congressman Hill of Colorado and Willard Edwards, long-time Washington newspaperman. After weeks of work these men uncovered a large number of secret contracts made by the State Department, which revealed that the department used a $27 million slush fund last year to subsidize a number of radio commentators, cartoonists, writers and publishers. For example, the State Department paid over $2,000 for a book of Herbert Block's cartoons entitled Herblock Looks at Communism. Herbert Block is the political cartoonist for the Washington Post. He cartooned violently against my Marshall speech and has cartooned violently against every attempt to dig out unexposed Communists, including my anti-Communist fight.

The magazine which referred to misquotations in the Marshall speech—misquotations no one has yet been able to find in the speech—also received a heavy subsidy from the State Department this year, and in addition, according to a speech of Senator Harry Cain of Washington (April 10, 1950), was subsidized, as of December 31, 1949, in the amount of $343,800 by the government.

The twisted reporting by a combination of Communist camp-following elements of press and radio and the heavily subsidized elements of the same, together with their suppression of the speech, have made it necessary to publish this history of Marshall in book form so that it can be made available to the people of this nation.

The personal attacks and uncomplimentary adjectives leveled at me by the Communist and left-wing elements of the press were a matter of no consequence whatever. I do not relish the abuse of my detractors, nor do I quail before it. I cite these cases only to raise the question: Why the unwholesome hysteria? Why the slander? Why the suppression? Why did not one member of this segment of the press cite one misquotation that they spoke of, or one twisted fact that they screamed about? Why did not one answer any of the profound questions raised in that speech?

There were strong voices raised in the press over the fact that the documented facts on Marshall's history were overlooked or ignored by some parts of the press during the first few weeks after the speech was made.

The Washington Times-Herald wrote:

"Senator Joe McCarthy made a 60,000-word speech about General Marshall on June 14. The kept calumnists and newspaper errand boys of the Pendergast mobsters have been screeching the house down ever since,

"They have suggested the Senator is a skunk, traitor, mud-slinger, faker of facts and all around candidate for horse-whipping. Are they right?

"We don't see how anybody can possibly say unless and until after examining the evidence. And right here and now, we will place a small bet . . . that not one of those who have been calling Joe McCarthy names since June 14th has actually done the basic homework job of reading the speech itself. . . .

"The writer of this editorial has read McCarthy's speech and finds it a challenge that will have to be met and dealt with, sooner or later.

John O'Donnell, columnist for the New York News, also raised this question:

"Without reading the text, all of Marshall's pinko, pseudo-liberal friends in press and radio, started out on another smear-McCarthy campaign. This time the press and courtesans were in trouble—and so is General Marshall. For the McCarthy speech was a coldly-documented, carefully-edited and restrained indictment in which damning evidence marched steadily on the heels of accusation, where lie and reputation came face to face."

Perhaps the overall picture of the genuine, honest newspaperman's coverage of the speech is best illustrated by the following excerpts from the editorials of two typical mid-west papers:

"We listened and read with growing alarm the comments of the daily press and radio. We heard McCarthy charged with crimes ranging from blasphemy to mere political dishonesty, Yet we were impressed, as we have been impressed on previous occasions, with the studied refusal of the McCarthy critics to discuss his basic charges. Nowhere did we read or hear direct references to McCarthy's text, or direct quotations from it. The critics simply told us that McCarthy had engaged in a wholesale slander of General Marshall. We began to suspect that there might be a vast difference between what McCarthy said, and what the critics who disagree with him would have us believe he said.

"So we did the logical thing—the thing the critics didn't do. We read the full text of McCarthy's speech on "America's Retreat—The Story of George Catlett Marshall." We read all 48 pages of it (not printed at government expense) direct from the Congressional Record.

(Polk County Ledger, Balsam Lake, Wis.
Editor: Mason H. Dobson)

"Many, ourselves included, were at first inclined to dismiss the Marshall speech as a McCarthy grandstand play for attention.

"It has been brought to our attention that critics were out condemning McCarthy without knowing what his 60,000-word Senate speech contained. None of McCarthy's critics had challenged the documented charges against General George C. Marshall in that speech. They just criticized him for tearing down an American hero. We too have always regarded General Marshall as a great hero, and it is a shock to see an opposite viewpoint proved by Senator McCarthy.

"Few people have read Senator McCarthy's speech, because of its length and the fact that it was not reproduced generally. We decided to read the 60,000 word treatise on General Marshall. Several aspirins later we had gone through a copy taken from the Congressional Record.

"Senator Joe McCarthy's discourse, which admittedly took 30 days preparation by himself and several staff members, is, if true, a horrible indictment of General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff.

"No one has answered the basic points made therein, nor by McCarthy so much, but by quotations from the books of Winston Churchill, Admiral Leahy and a formidable array of General Marshall's close friends.

"This document should be studied by more thinking people so they can judge for themselves what has gone on.

(Pierce County Herald, Ellsworth, Wis.
Editor H. F. Doolittle)