According to 1954 primary sources:

On March 13, 1954, Edward Murrow’s report on Senator Joseph McCarthy was proclaimed in a magazine as “the greatest feat of journalistic enterprise.”[1] The article from The Washington Post continues to say that the magazine said that Murrow “gave new meaning to ‘freedom of broadcasting’ by his indictment of the Wisconsin senator (McCarthy).”[2]

The following day, on March 14th, 1954, The Washington Post printed and article stating that Senator Joseph R. McCarthy “was invited today to take over the CBS television show, ‘See It Now,’ from 10:30 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to reply to Edward R. Murrow’s charges made against him.”[3] The invitation to McCarthy to reply to Murrow on the 14th was the second invitation sent to him.  McCarthy claimed to never receiving the first invitation, but Murrow replied that McCarthy had made public reference to the first invitation of free air time to reply to the charges.  However, Murrow made the offer during the program on the previous Tuesday when he “criticized McCarthy and his methods.”[4]

Two days later, March 16, The Washington Post announces in an article that McCarthy accepted the bid to reply to Murrow’s charge.  McCarthy said he would appear on the show either March 23 or April 6, but preferred April 6.  In the article, McCarthy is quoted as saying that if he is “correct in my position that you (Murrow) have consciously served the Communist cause it is very important for your listeners to have the clear-cut documented facts so that they can decide whether or not you are truthful as you attempt to make out, or are deliberately misrepresenting the facts.”[5] McCarthy’s quote was in reference to a charge made by McCarthy against Murrow that Murrow “had been connected in the 1930s with a Moscow University summer school.”[6] McCarthy labeled the summer school as a “Communist propaganda school.”[7] Murrow’s reply to McCarthy’s charge was simple, that the record would show who was the Communist, McCarthy or Murrow.[8]

An article published on March 26, 1954 by Drew Pearson in both The Washington Post & Times Herald declares the reasons behind the charges by Senator McCarthy against the article’s author, Pearson.  Pearson declared McCarthy only made the accusation because he was protected behind libel laws by Senate immunity.  Pearson denies the charges of violation to the Espionage Act and that one of his assistants blackmailed a Pentagon official.  Pearson then gives evidence as to why McCarthy’s charges are not true.[9]

April 3, 1954, an article printed by the New York Times proclaimed that the Army appointed a special counsel to handle its case in the dispute with Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.  Dr. Irving Peress, a New York dentist and former major, had set off the charges and counter-charges that prompted the pending investigation.[10]

John H. Fenton wrote an article for the New York Times for April 4, 1954 that McCarthy had asked for “information on six army personnel ‘with known Communist records’ the day before the case of Pvt. G. David Schine became public.”[11] The Senator also reported that he had filmed a reply to Ed Murrow for the upcoming Tuesday night episode.[12]

On April 5, 1954, a group of citizens bought space in The Washington Post and The Times-Herald to publish a letter to the President of the United States.  They hoped that publishing the letter in the two newspapers would increase their chances of the letter being heard by the President and the people of the United States.  They claim to be good, patriotic, communist-hating citizens but for the past three years “with a mounting sense of helplessness and horror, we have watched Senator McCarthy go from triumph to triumph, leaving in his wake the now all-too-familiar debris…”[13] The letter continues to say that they do not believe that Communism can be rooted out of the government using the methods of McCarthy because it will destroy the government in the process.  They are sickened that they had to watch the day when a Senator attempts to discredit and dishonor the United States Army.  Finally, they say that they are outraged by the repeated attempts by the Senator to defy the President.  The group of citizens feels that the only person who can stop McCarthy is the President of the United States.  They requested that the President “forbid Government representatives to appear before McCarthy’s Subcommittee until he gives ample and unmistakable proof that he will abide by fair and reasonable rules of procedure in the treatment of witnesses.”[14]

Another article from April 5, 1954 is written by George Sokolsky about how Senator McCarthy is controversial these days.  The article is very open about saying that McCarthy is a controversial person and it is true for anyone who goes near him.[15]

Drew Pearson wrote another article on McCarthy on April 5, 1954 about how the Senate of the United States has already investigated Senator McCarthy on charges four different times and that McCarthy was able to wiggle his way out of those charges.  Pearson asks in his article if McCarthy will be able to wiggle out of this fifth charge and according to Pearson, from the supposedly neutral counsel that will investigate McCarthy on the McCarthy-Army probe, the Wisconsin Senator will be able to wiggle out of his fifth charge investigation.  Pearson also lists the previous four charges.  The first investigation was when McCarthy charged the U.S. Army with torturing German war criminals for killing American citizens in cold blood, the charge against McCarthy was for being completely wrong.  The second investigation was by Sen. Millard Tydings who looked into McCarthy’s charges that 205 people in the State Department were card-carrying Communists.  McCarthy was found wrong, but he led a cry to Tydings home state causing him to lose re-election.  The third charge was that McCarthy’s campaign against Tydings was so dirty that the Senator Elections Committee investigated McCarthy on serious charges.  The fourth charge was the most serious charges brought up against McCarthy by Connecticut Senator William Benton, who “drew up a 12 point indictment accusing McCarthy of unethical and dishonest conduct.”[16]

McCarthy charged the U.S. with delay on creating the Hydrogen Bomb and that may cause the death of this nation.  The rest of the article pretty much sums up McCarthy’s answer to Murrow and the slandering against Murrow begins.  McCarthy drags out that the Communist paper The Daily Worker attacks him, but praises Murrow’s show and that in another issue of The Daily Worker a Communist Party chairman praised Murrow.   McCarthy is quoted in the article as feeling justified in speaking out against Murrow because Murrow is a leader, symbol, and “the cleverest of the Jackal pack, which is always found at the throat of anyone who dares to expose Communists and traitors.”[17] McCarthy continues to say the Murrow had Communist propaganda training.[18]

On April 6, 1954, Edward R. Murrow struck back at McCarthy who appeared on a filmed TV program replying to Murrow’s charges.  The article published on April 7th, 1954, quotes Murrow saying that McCarthy’s attempt to discredit Murrow’s loyalty to the United States in another example of “his (McCarthy) typical tactic of attempting to tie up to communism anyone who disagrees with him.”[19] Murrow proclaims his dedication to the United States and that it is his devotion to the principles of the Nation that sets him apart from McCarthy.  Murrow then answered the five points of attack by McCarthy: 1) Murrow denied that he had been a member of the International Workers of the World, 2) It is true that British Socialist and Scholar Harold Laski had dedicated a book to him, however Laski was his friend and a socialist, Murrow is not a socialist, 3) He said that he was only one of many thanked by Owen Lattimore for their reporting[20], and unfortunately I was not able to get a hold of the rest of the article.

The last primary source I’d like to summarize for March 1954 through at least parts of April 1954 is from written copies of Edward R. Murrow’s broadcasts, released by his wife and edited with an introduction by Edward Bliss Jr, from March 1954 to April 1954.  However, there was a February broadcast that interested me enough to include as well.

February 23, 1954 Murrow analyzed the case revolving around General Ralph Zwicker.  This analysis was Murrow’s first real heavy attack on Senator McCarthy and his tactics.  Since the transcripts of the General’s examination had been published, Murrow asked if the public was to accept Senator McCarthy’s denunciation of the General for not delaying the honorable discharge of dental officer Irving Peress.  McCarthy announced his belief that General Zwicker was not fit for command because he did not postpone the discard after discovered evidence about Peress being part of the Communists.  Murrow questions whether McCarthy should be allowed to delve into departmental issues and cause strife.  Murrow admits that Senate investigations exist in our government, but not in the way that McCarthy carries them out.[21]

March 9, 1954 on the half-hour show, “See It Now,” on CBS, Murrow devoted the show time to a report on Senator Joseph McCarthy.  The purpose of this show by Edward R. Murrow and Fred W. Friendly was to “document publicly McCarthy’s methods.”[22] The report was told mainly in McCarthy’s own words and pictures.  In Murrow’s ending comments, he remarked that the Wisconsin Senator repeatedly stepped over the line between investigation and persecution.  Murrow reminds audiences that accusations are not proof of guilt, dissent is not proof of disloyalty, and conviction depends on evidence and due process of the law.  Murrow also injects that the nation is in a state of fear, and he admits that the blame for this fear is not with McCarthy, but that McCarthy exploited it.[23]

For the March 11, 1954 airing of “See It Now,” Murrow told audiences that Mrs. Annie Lee Moss was suspended from her job with the Army Signal Corps in Washington because she was accused of being a card-carrying Communist in 1943 from hearsay evidence.  Mrs. Moss declared she didn’t even know what Communist meant until 1948, five years later, and never subscribed to The Daily Worker.  Later it was established that Mrs. Moss told the truth and the Army rehired her.[24]

[1]United Press, “Murrow Report Hailed by Radio-TV Magazine,” The Washington Post, March 13, 1954, (accessed September 02, 2008).


[3]______, “Senator Gets 2d Invitation From Murrow,” The Washington Post, March 14, 1954, (accessed September 02, 2008).


[5]The Associated Press, “McCarthy Accepts Bid to Give TV Reply to Murrow Charge,” The Washington Past, March 16, 1954, (accessed September 02, 2008).




[9]Drew Pearson, “Behind McCarthy’s Charges,” The Washington Post & Times Herald, March 26, 1954. (accessed October 7, 2008).

[10]C.P. Trusell, “Inquiry Counsel Named by Army,” New York Times, April 3, 1954, (accessed October 7, 2008).

[11]John H. Fenton, “Six More in Army M’Carthy Targets,” New York Times, April 4, 1954, (accessed October 7, 2008).


[13]Private Citizens, “An Open Letter to the President,” The Washington Post & The Times-Herald, April 5, 1954, (accessed September 02, 2008).


[15]George Sokolsky, “These Days…Joe is Controversial,”  The Washington Post & Times Herald, April 5, 1954, (accessed October 7, 2008).

[16]Drew Pearson, “Can McCarthy Wiggle Out?,”  The Washington Post & Times Herald, April 5, 1954, (accessed October 7, 2008).

[17]Cox, Claire, “McCarthy Charges H-Delay,” The Washington Post & Times Herald, April 7, 1954, (accessed September 2, 2008).


[19]INS, “Ed Murrow Strikes Back at McCarthy,” The Washington Post & The Times-Herald, April 7, 1954, (accessed September 02, 2008).


[21]Edward Bliss Jr., ed., In Search of Light: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow 1938-1961 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967) 244-7.

[22]Ibid, 247.

[23]Ibid, 247-8.

[24]Ibid, 248-9.