Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who was a U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion. He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, the controversy he generated led him to be censured by the United States Senate.
The term "McCarthyism", coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy's practices, was soon applied to similar anti-communist activities. Today, the term is used by critics of McCarthy in reference to what they consider demagogic, reckless, and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.
McCarthy was born in 1908 in the Town of Grand Chute in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, and attended Marquette University, studying different subjects before deciding on law and earning an LL.B. from Marquette University Law School. He practiced law and won election as a circuit court judge, and at age 33 McCarthy volunteered to serve in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He successfully ran for the United States Senate in 1946, defeating Robert M. La Follette Jr. After three largely undistinguished years in the Senate, McCarthy rose suddenly to national fame in February 1950 when he asserted in a speech that he had a list of "members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring" who were employed in the State Department.
In succeeding years after his 1950 speech, McCarthy made additional accusations of Communist infiltration into the State Department, the administration of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, and the United States Army. He also used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or sex crimes to attack a number of politicians and other individuals inside and outside of government.
McCarthy made various attempts to investigate, and hold accountable (as the practice was still against the law in many locations), people whom he accused, or threatened to publicly accuse, of homosexuality. Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written, "The so-called 'Red Scare' has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element... and one that harmed far more people was the 'Lavender Scare', a witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals." With the highly publicized Army–McCarthy hearings of 1954, and following the suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester C. Hunt that same year, McCarthy's support and popularity faded. On December 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67–22, making him one of the few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion. McCarthy died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48. The official cause of death was acute hepatitis. Some biographers say this was caused or exacerbated by alcoholism....LESS