What did Senator Joseph McCarthy do to become famous in the 1950s?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Senator Joseph McCarthy from Wisconsin became famous in the 1950s because he claimed that there were communists in our government. There had been a growing concern about the spread of communism in the United States after World War II ended. The Loyalty Review Program was initiated to check to see if federal employees were loyal to our country. While a small number of federal workers were fired, most government employees were cleared. However, this program played into the fear that communism was spreading in our country.

Senator McCarthy held hearings to determine if communists were working for our government. Senator McCarthy’s tactics were very intimidating. Few people were willing to stand up to him for fear that they would be labeled as a communist. Over 2,000 people lost their government jobs because of McCarthy’s actions, even though the evidence wasn’t that strong. 

However, when he claimed that there were communists in the Army, his power began to fade. People watched on television how he challenged and intimidated witnesses. The attorney for the Army took McCarthy head on and asked him if he had any sense of decency after he attacked a young attorney who worked for the Army. He lost his support, his power faded, and the Senate censured him. He died a few years later in 1957.

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