Welch vs. McCarthy

Sen. Joseph McCarthy's relentless campaign against alleged communists in the U.S. government-having lost much of its credibility during the televised Army-McCarthy hearings-was dealt a fatal blow at their conclusion. An excerpt from The Post of June 10, 1954:

By Murrey Marder
Staff Reporter

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.) was severely excoriated by Special Army Attorney Joseph N. Welch yesterday for "reckless cruelty" and abandonment of "decency."

The emotional climax to 30 days of Army-McCarthy hearings came when McCarthy attacked a young attorney in Welch's Boston law firm, Frederick G. Fisher, Jr., as a member of "the legal arm of the Communist Party."

"Until this moment, Senator," said the outraged Army attorney, "I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ..."

When McCarthy pressed his attacks on Fisher-who was a member of the National Lawyers' Guild while a student at Harvard Law School-Welch entreated McCarthy, "Have you left no sense of decency?"

Deeply moved, the courtly 63-year-old attorney said to McCarthy in measured tones: "If there is a God in Heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any further good."

This remark brought the greatest burst of applause from the audience since the hearing began; McCarthy turned to the audience and grinned.

Welch said he was thereupon dropping his cross-examination of McCarthy's chief aide, Roy M. Cohn. Turning to Acting Chairman Karl E. Mundt (R-S.D.), Welch said, "You, Mr. Chairman, may if you will, call the next witness." Mundt immediately called a brief recess. Later McCarthy took the stand.

Cohn had sat through the McCarthy-Welch exchange in obvious embarrassment. He later went up and spoke to James D. St. Clair, Welch's assistant, while Welch was out of the room.

A member of the Senate Investigations Subcommittee who went into the corridor during the recess told a reporter, "Welch went around the corner and bawled like a baby."

When he reentered the hearing room, the Army counsel sat numbly at the committee table, his hand on his head, looking like a man in a state of shock.

There were immediate indications that the McCarthy-Welch exchange, carried to millions of viewers by television, would have a major effect on the public reaction to the Army-McCarthy investigation, even though it had no direct bearing on the charges and counter-charges at issue.

McCarthy, outwardly, indicated that he attached no importance to the incident, but instead, regarded the discomfiture of Welch as a natural hazard of the hearings. The Senator has frequently contended that "diversionary" tactics which he has repeatedly been accused of using are simply a proper part of the proceedings to protect his interests.