New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.
Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 30 Mar 2021 09:00
Joseph McCarthy searches for communist infiltrators in the U.S. government. He lands on a big target, one that earns him a formidable enemy.
Listen to new episodes 1 week early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. Available in the Wondery App https://wondery.app.link/americanscandal.
Support us by supporting our sponsors!
It's March 3rd, 1953 in Washington, D.C. Inside the Senate office building, a crowd of people stretches across a hallway. They're murmuring, looking around, waiting for a man to appear. Soon he shows up. And Harris steps into the hallway, and all at once the crowd begins pointing at him, talking more excitedly. Harris is an executive at Voice of America, a broadcast network that's run by the government. Voice of America sends American media over the airwaves to the Soviet Union. It's all part of America's Cold War, and it's Harris's job to counter communist propaganda. Except that now Harris has found himself in a frightening position. He's been accused of being a communist himself, and he's been called to testify before Senator Joseph McCarthy, who's on a crusade to root out communists from the government. As Harris makes his way down the hallway, the spectators keep pointing and murmuring with the look of anger in their eyes. Harris can feel himself growing ever more panicked. He's not a communist. He has never been, but if Senator McCarthy convinces people that he's a red, his reputation will be ruined, and he could lose his job. So Harris composes himself and focuses. In just a few moments, he'll have to do everything he can to counter these wild charges. Harris reaches room 357, and is suddenly blinded by the pops of flash bulbs. He stops and stares. The room is full of press photographers and reporters. It feels like a circus, and the hearing hasn't even started yet. Harris walks to the witness table and takes a seat. A moment later, Senator McCarthy leans towards his microphone and addresses the room. Good day, everyone. We're here because the investigation subcommittee is seeking out communist influence at Voice of America. Mr. Harris is an executive at FOA, and he's a known radical. McCarthy turns and squints at Harris. Mr. Harris, are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party? No, Senator. If you're not a communist, then why did you write a book that praised the Soviet Union? Harris knew this was coming. When he was young, he was a hot head journalist. He had written some things that maybe he shouldn't have, but that does not make him guilty. The book you're referring to, Senator, was something I wrote 20 years ago. The subject was a corruption in American college football. It contained a passage praising the Soviet Union's approach to sports. Now, I regret writing it. My views have since changed. You can't prove that your views have changed. Why should we believe that? Because Senator McCarthy, you need only look at my record. I've been cleared by the Civil Service Commission to hold my present job. I've had six separate background checks. There has never been an issue. McCarthy smiles and whispers with his top lawyer, Roy Cohn. Together these two men have led interrogations of Harris's colleagues at Voice of America. McCarthy questioned them about their politics, their religion, their sexuality. Nothing was off limits. These inquisitions quickly brought a wave of paranoia to Voice of America, a wave that's now spreading across the country. Everyone knew that with one wrong word, their lives could be ruined. Mr. Harris, you say you've been cleared by the Civil Service Commission to do this job. Now I'm not comparing you to him, but the known Communist spy, Alter His, was also cleared by that same commission. Senator, you're obviously comparing me to His, and your so called questions are nothing but innuendo, you're not trying to find the truth, trying to ring my neck. I will not be sneered at. Your record is a serious matter, Mr. Harris. I'm not sneering. I'm stating facts. The fact is that American citizens are innocent until proven guilty. Well, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. So Mr. Harris, if you write like a Communist, you're either a Communist or sympathetic to their cause. Senator, what you don't understand is you have three days to appear before this committee with proof that your views have changed. If you fail to do that, you're clearly unfit for your position. And with that, McCarthy draws the session to a close. Four minute, Harris sits at the witness table stunned. There's no question his days at Voice of America are over. There's no way to prove his innocence, not even with his spotless record. McCarthy would just keep bringing up his past. As he stands to leave, Harris feels dazed. He's done more to fight communism than McCarthy ever has. But that doesn't matter. Joseph McCarthy is judge, jury, and executioner. And from what Harris can tell, the senator's reign of terror is just getting started. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham. This is American Scandal. In November of 1952, Joseph McCarthy was reelected to the United States Senate. His party now in the majority, McCarthy also took control of an obscure but powerful subcommittee. This subcommittee allowed him to continue his quest to find communists in the government. McCarthy worked alongside a lawyer named Roy Cohn, and together the two forced government employees to face a public inquisition. The cases generated headlines and led to resignations, but McCarthy was hungry for a bigger target. It's the spring of 1953 in Washington, DC. Today as the two stroll through the Rose Garden, the president doesn't like the advice his brother is offering. All morning they've been arguing about Senator Joe McCarthy. Eisenhower wishes his brother would just drop the subject, but Milton keeps getting more and more worked up. Milton says there's a crisis unfolding. McCarthy is trying to police the thoughts of private citizens. He's condemning people for their opinions, not their actions. And that's not only wrong. It's dangerous. He's engaged in a witch hunt that threatens the fabric of America. People are getting scared. They're worried they may say or think the wrong thing, and that they'll be destroyed. Milton stops and tells Eisenhower that this isn't how a democracy is supposed to work, but McCarthy is acting like a totalitarian dictator, and then Milton hammers home the point he's made all morning. Eisenhower must do something to stop McCarthy. Eisenhower nods and continues walking beside a head just shrubs. He felt the same way before he became president. McCarthy launched a baseless attack against his friend and mentor George Marshall. Eisenhower wanted to bury McCarthy, but now that he's president, he knows he has to pick his battles. So Eisenhower tells Milton that he doesn't see an upside if he goes after McCarthy. The man may want to be a dictator, but so far he's not close to gaining that kind of power. Eisenhower can see his brother's face growing red once again, and he knows there's another diatribe coming. Milton grabs Eisenhower by the shoulder and says that McCarthy is tearing the country apart. Eisenhower must, he must, announce McCarthy immediately using the strongest possible language. It's the only way to save the country. Eisenhower sighs as he looks up into the blue sky. His brother isn't wrong in principle, but he also doesn't understand the reality of politics. And so Eisenhower reminds Milton that McCarthy is a Republican, just like him. And McCarthy has a strong base of support. At the same time, Republicans only have a slim majority in the Senate. A public fight with McCarthy could do damage in the next election and cost the party its majority, and that would impair Eisenhower's entire policy agenda. And so, Eisenhower says it's time to change the subject. But Milton shakes his head, says he's not finished. Eisenhower is the only man who can beat McCarthy in the court of public opinion. He's a war hero and a patriot. He has the public support, and that also means he has a duty to act. The two brothers reach the end of the hedges, where the law and drop south toward the Washington Monument. Eisenhower looks out at the giant obelisk, a towering reminder of the greatness of the presidency. And he turns to Milton and reminds him that if he goes toe to toe with Joe McCarthy, he'll be raising the senator to the level of the president. A public war will only make McCarthy stronger. So his decision is final. For now, he's not going to pick a fight with McCarthy. But he will keep a close watch on the senator. And if McCarthy oversteps, Eisenhower won't hesitate to destroy him. Later that spring, Joseph McCarthy races towards his senate office in Washington, DC. In one hand, he clutches a document. It's only three sheets of paper, but to McCarthy, it feels like he's holding the key to his entire future. McCarthy pushes open the doors to his office and sees his staff working at their desks. He scans the room and catches eyes with one of his staffers, a woman in her late 20s with dark brown hair. Her name is Jean Kerr and she's a valuable aide who helps write many McCarthy speeches. She's also McCarthy's fiance. Some McCarthy waves her over, signaling for Jean to follow him into his private office. The two reach the office and McCarthy gives her a kiss. Then he tells her that he has an astounding new piece of evidence to share with her. Jean asks if this is private, if they can risk being overheard. McCarthy nods toward the door and she shuts it. Then McCarthy continues, explaining how just this morning he received a phone call from a mysterious man. The man told McCarthy he had evidence revealing that there are a communist in the United States Army. The man was on a pay phone, but wanted to meet face to face. A few hours later, that's exactly what they did. At the meeting, McCarthy learned that the man was an Army intelligence officer. He then handed over some valuable information. McCarthy holds out the document for Jean to inspect. Jean takes the pages and begins to read as McCarthy explains what she's looking at. It's an FBI memo, with a list of 34 names. All of them are suspected communists at an army base in New Jersey called Fort Monmouth. This proves something huge. The US Army has been infiltrated by coming a spies. McCarthy almost feels out of breath as he watches Jean reading the papers. This document may be the most important discovery in his entire career. He could use it to launch more investigations and the publicity could make him the most famous politician in the country. But when Jean looks up, McCarthy can see she's concerned. She points out that there's no date on the document. The information could be outdated or even fake. McCarthy throws his hands up an exasperation, asking what she's talking about. This is gold standard evidence. It was hand delivered by a military insider. It's going to get Roy Cohn started on it right away. The lawyer is sure to dig up even more dirt. Kair looks down and she weighs her words. And then she says that even if this document is real, even if it's true, she's not sure Roy Cohn is the best person to work on it. She worries about Cohn. At times he seems reckless. And Jean says she's worried that all of this could come back and bite McCarthy. McCarthy smiles. And tells Jean not to worry, Cohn is a brilliant and fearless investigator. He's exactly the sort of man McCarthy needs to go after a big target like the army. Kair then takes McCarthy's hand and says that's the real problem. Going after the United States Army, it's incredibly risky. President Eisenhower will be furious if McCarthy starts attacking the military. McCarthy drops her hand and says he doesn't give a damn about Eisenhower. That man has no backbone. McCarthy's the only one with real courage. And right now, courage is what America needs. There are communists in the army. And whether or not Eisenhower supports him, McCarthy is going to find those communists. He's going to take them down. Several months later, music fills the air at a private social club in Washington, D.C. The club housed inside an ornate mansion is packed. More than a thousand people are mingling and laughing. Under the political elite of Washington, wearing tuxedos and flowing ballgounds. Joseph McCarthy wins his way through the event waving at friends. He's exhausted and his mouth hurts from smiling. He needs a break, but he knows he has to keep up appearances. At least for now, because this event is in his honor. It's his wedding reception. Already McCarthy has shaken a million hands and said just as many thank yous. And he hasn't had a single drink, his wife insisted on a dry wedding. So it's time to slip away and steal a sip from the flask in his pocket. McCarthy hurries past his guests in spots of gene, is chatting with Vice President Richard Nixon and Nixon's wife Pat. Of course, President Eisenhower declined the wedding invitation. And it's no secret why. Just before the wedding, McCarthy began investigating the president's beloved army. And while McCarthy is now famous across the country, he has a different reputation in Washington. Many of the guests at his own wedding make fun of him behind his back. They say he's done nothing in his crusade except force out a few lefty bureaucrats. The thought drives McCarthy mad. And when he reaches an empty table in the corner, he collapses into a chair. He fishes the flask from his coat pocket and takes a swig. He feels bitter, even though this is his celebration. As his critics are partially right, he launched an investigation into the army, hoping to find Soviet spies at an army base. But so far, he hasn't turned up a single spy, or even an active communist. Still, he can't walk away empty handed from this investigation of the army. He needs to find something. McCarthy takes another large swig from his flask when he hears approaching footsteps. He turns and spots Roy Cohn, his chief counsel. Congratulations, Joe, Gene's a beautiful one. Well, thank you, Roy. She's only got one fall. Eh? What's that? She had to go and make this a dry wedding. This flask right here is going to have to last me the whole night. Ah, come on, no need for drinks. Just look around, you've got half a Washington cheering for you. Well, maybe half of the more in my corner. But the other half think I'm a laughingstock. Look, Roy, we're not winning. We did six days of hearings about the army. It wasn't enough. Joe, I thought we talked about this. We agreed to move on, start fresh, find some commies somewhere else, maybe the Department of Agriculture. McCarthy snorts and gestures toward the ballroom. You think any of those people give a damn about the Department of Agriculture? Be honest, the army. The armies are a big chance. If we don't get this one right, we might as well be done. Oh, like not. Look, the mom with hearings were not a total flop. What about that scientist? The one who admitted he was a former member of the Communist Party. The army gave him the boot, and that is thanks to you. That doesn't count, Roy. We need something bigger and much bigger. Joe, we checked every name on the list you got from the FBI. Look, it's not our fault. The army already cleared them out two years ago. McCarthy pounces fists on the table. I don't give a damn. I want a Soviet spy. Okay, Joe. Okay, but what do you want me to do? Double down on the army and the mom with base. By the time I back from my honeymoon, I want Communist lined up and waiting. Well, I've got my orders then. McCarthy rises and begins walking back toward the gathering. The cone stops him. Joe, before you go. I wanted to thank you again for pulling those favors for my good friend David Shine. Oh. Yeah, of course. I mean, the guy gets drafted and you stuck your neck out. You made sure he wouldn't get shipped overseas. Anyway, you're a good man, Joe. We're going to keep fighting. We're going to get the win we deserve. It's my promise. McCarthy nods. After all, there are recent failures. It feels good to have Roy Cohn's reassurance. After all, he's the man who put death to America's most famous communists, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. If he won that victory, then the two of them can win here too. They'll keep investigating the army. It'll only be a matter of time before they find a real Soviet spy. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there. And we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or every listen to podcasts. Or you can listen ad free by joining Wondery Plus in the Wondery app. It's early January 1954 in Washington, DC. Joseph McCarthy is reading the newspaper in his office when there's a sharp knock on the door. Before he can say anything, the door bursts open and his chief counsel Roy Cohn hurries inside. Cohn shuts the door and gives McCarthy a triumphant look. And then he says he has it. He finally has the Communist McCarthy has been looking for someone who will blow open the whole case and make McCarthy a hero. The car through Leanne's back feeling dizzy with anticipation. This is incredible news. Because for months he's continued his investigation of the army. But so far he hasn't found a single communist spy and increasingly the press and public are calling McCarthy a fraud. That's why now more than ever he needs to catch a big fish. So he shoots Cohn an expectant look and says he's all ears. Cohn tells McCarthy that he's received a tip from an army general named Ralph Zwicker. The general said he was concerned about someone at his army camp, an army dentist named Irving Perez. The man posed a security risk and could very well be a communist. As McCarthy listens, he feels his anger starting to rise. He asks Cohn if this is some sort of joke. He wants someone like Julius Rosenberg and instead Cohn brings him a dentist. McCarthy asks what exactly is this dentist doing? Is he telling Soviets about the troop's cavities? But Cohn says he's dead serious. Dentists are a real security threat. They may not have access to secret files, but they have another advantage. They can get soldiers alone in a room and gain their confidence. They can even drug them. McCarthy takes a moment to consider the possibility. He realizes that Cohn is right. This could be a real lead. And so he asks Cohn what else he learned. Cohn smiles gleefully. And Tels McCarthy that Perez did raise red flags enough that the army was concerned he could be disloyal. But they still promoted him from captain to major. Cohn cracks his knuckles. And Tels McCarthy to consider that. The army gave him a promotion at the same time they were investigating whether he was a communist. McCarthy licks his lips, pounds the table in celebration. He tells Cohn that this might be it. This might be the one. It's time to act. Cohn says he's glad that McCarthy agrees because there's something he needs to know. The army is trying to sweep this under the rug. They want to get the dentist honorably discharged since that's the fastest way to get him out. McCarthy understands immediately. The two of them can't wait. They need to act on this now. No nods, they'll launch an investigation as soon as they can. McCarthy rises and with a big grin on his face, he shakes hands with Cohn. He congratulates his lawyer for a job well done and says this is exactly why he brought Cohn into this whole operation. The army isn't going to get away with this and soon the whole world will know the truth. Later that month Herbert Brownell strives through the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. He hurrys up a marble staircase as he climbs higher into the department's headquarters. As he moves, young department employees smile nervously and step out of his way. By now, Brownell has gotten used to this feeling of minor fame. He's the Attorney General of the United States and that means he oversees a vast operation of federal law enforcement. It's a hard job under even normal circumstances, but these days are far from normal. Senator Joseph McCarthy is leading a crusade to find Soviet infiltrators inside the government. The goal isn't misguided, but his tactics have been devastating. McCarthy's investigations have fostered widespread paranoia and not just in Washington. Both government employees and civilians have grown terrified that McCarthy will label them a communist and ruin their lives. Up until now, President Eisenhower has tolerated McCarthy. With that change, when McCarthy led a full, throated investigation of the army, suggesting that it had been infiltrated by communists, McCarthy made headlines, though, which seemed to be his main goal. And Eisenhower had reached a breaking point. That's why Brownell, the Attorney General, is about to head into this meeting. It's time to begin planning to neutralize Joseph McCarthy. Brownell steps into his office and greets his aides, a nervous silence hangs in the air, and Brownell reminds them of their delicate task. Soon, they're going to gather some intelligence. They'll be looking for dirt on their fellow Republican Joe McCarthy. The aides nod, and Brownell can sense their discomfort. He doesn't like this either, but he's spoken with his boss, the president, and it has to be done. Right then, there's a knock on the office door. Brownell's aides opens it, revealing a man in his early 40s with a deeply lined face. His name is John Adams, and he's the top attorney for the United States Army. Adams enters closing the door behind him, and then Brownell begins the meeting. He tells Adams that they've heard he has information that could damage McCarthy. Brownell asks if it's true. Adams, the Army Attorney, says yes. He does have potentially damning information. It involves a member of McCarthy's staff. His name is G. David Shine, and apparently he's a close friend of Roy Cohn, McCarthy's chief lawyer. Brownell raises his eyebrow and asks what's possibly controversial about a young staffer. Adams explains, last year this young man was drafted into the Army. And ever since he was drafted, McCarthy and Cohn have been pressuring the Army to give the man all sorts of favors, a private room for basic training, state dinners in the mess hall. They even tried to get Shine promoted to be an officer. The advisors in the room titter at this incredible story of favoritism and corruption, but Brownell custom off. He says the story is a good one, but it's convoluted. If they ever leak it to the press, they'll need something simpler. The Army Attorney smirks before he asks what Brownell thinks about a headline like this. McCarthy blackmail's army in exchange for favors. Brownell pauses, says that's not a bad start, but where's the blackmail? Adams shakes his head and explains that he's the one who's been fielding the absurd request from Cohn and McCarthy. He denied them and said no soldier gets preferential treatment. But then Roy Cohn starts lashing out. He said that if the Army didn't help out Shine, he'd make sure the entire country knew the Army was being run by fools. Brownell's eyes widen as he considers the implications. Cohn and McCarthy are investigating the Army. This obviously referred to McCarthy's investigations. It was a threat and one that certainly sounds like blackmail. Brownell looks around the office. His aide's nod. They're thinking the same thing. Brownell knows they've got a plan. In the coming months, they can demand that McCarthy reign in his investigations. He needs to stop undermining the public's trust in the Army. But if he refuses and keeps pushing forward with his investigations, then they'll only have one option. They'll have to go to war with McCarthy. This story about favoritism, corruption, and blackmail of the Army is all the ammunition they'll ever need. Its February 18th, 1954, a few weeks later, Joseph McCarthy walks up the steps of a federal courthouse in Manhattan. He pauses at the top of the stairs and smiles for the press photographers assemble below. And he enters the building and gets ready for a hearing that could change the course of his whole investigation. Just last month, McCarthy held a closed door hearing with the Army dentist who appeared to be a communist. The dentist put up a good fight, but in the end, he pleaded the fifth. McCarthy didn't consider that loss. Everyone knows you only stay silent if you're guilty. And so McCarthy saw that as proof that he'd finally caught a communist in the Army. But he also realized that he had a tactical advantage. You could use this smaller fish to catch a bigger one within the ranks of the military. Because McCarthy is positive that one of two things is happening. Either communists have completely infiltrated the Army or the Army is corrupt and full of coverups. Either way, McCarthy is going after anyone who's guilty. And once the dust settles, he knows he'll be applauded as a national hero. So now McCarthy steps into the courthouse for what should be an important day. He enters the hearing room and takes a seat. And then he looks over at the witness table. There, in a uniform that's decorated with medals, is Brigadier General Ralph Swicker. McCarthy's chief counsel Roy Cohn approaches and quickly reminds McCarthy who the man is. He's not just a general. He's the one who first told them about the dentist who was a possible communist. Swicker is an ally. McCarthy nods. But he also knows that if this general is truly an ally, he'll start naming names. McCarthy leans into his microphone and begins his opening questions. Thank you for coming, General Swicker. I'll start by asking you if you're familiar with the case of Irving Perez, the dentist in the Army. Yes, I am, sir. General Swicker, Mr. Perez was promoted, even though he was under security review as a communist, how do you feel about that decision? That was a bureaucratic oversight. It should not have happened. Yes was that an honorably discharged, honorably. Tell me, General, do you believe if someone gives an honorable discharge to a member of the communist conspiracy that that person should himself be removed from the military? That is not a question for me to decide. McCarthy stomach drops. What the hell is Wicker doing? He's ducking the question. You are ordered to answer the question, General. You are an employee of the people. I want to know how you feel about getting rid of communists. I'm all for it. All right, then you will answer my question. Do you mean how I feel toward communists? McCarthy's whole body suddenly tightens up in rage. This man was supposed to be their cooperative witness, but he's ducking and a fading question. Someone high up in the army must have told him to keep his mouth shut. Maybe the president himself. I mean exactly what I ask you, General, nothing less. And anyone with a brains of a five year old child can understand that question. But since you need it again, if a person gives an honorable discharge to a communist, should he himself be removed from the military? I do not think the officer in your hypothetical question should be removed from the military. Then General, you should be removed from your command. Any general who says I will protect another officer who protected communists is not fit to wear that uniform. You are a disgrace. McCarthy feels the room groteses. And then an aide from one of McCarthy's fellow senators, Hurrie's over. He whispers that Zwicker is one of the heroes of D.D. McCarthy should apologize right away. But McCarthy waves him away. He has no intention of apologizing. And he's not scared of the military brass. McCarthy doesn't have any intention to stop this campaign, certainly not now, when he's so close to uncovering a major conspiracy. McCarthy is going to continue his search for communists and their sympathizers. He'll take this search all the way up the army's chain of command, even if that brings him to the White House. It's February 25th, 1954, in Washington, D.C. Inside the Oval Office of the White House, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sits at his Mahogany desk drinking his morning coffee. He takes another sip and then grits his teeth. He's not sure if it's the coffee that tastes bitter or the headlines on all the newspapers sitting in front of him. Eisenhower glances from one paper to the next. Each tells the same story. Senator Joe McCarthy just lambasted army general Ralph Zwicker. And the reporters have all the same quotes. McCarthy says he's not done with the army and he won't stop until he delivers justice to the generals who pamper communists. Eisenhower feels himself starting to sweat with rage. He can't remember the last time he was so angry or humiliated. He's commander in chief of the armed forces and here McCarthy is making accusations about his top generals and berating them. Eisenhower decides he's finally had enough, but first he needs to vent his anger. He looks up from his desk and stares at his chief of staff, Sherman Adams. Eisenhower points a finger at Adams and says this is all his fault. Adams looks hurt. He asks what Eisenhower could possibly mean. Eisenhower is too worked up. He can't help himself. He begins to shout. He says Adams was the one who told Eisenhower to appease McCarthy. He'll never forget that train ride in Wisconsin when Adams told him to bite his tongue to support McCarthy for reelection. And now look what's happened, Eisenhower says. The entire US Army has been dragged through the mud all because of Adams's bad advice. Adams throws his hands in the air and says he's only done what's best for Eisenhower and the Republicans. He needed to consider the future of the party. Eisenhower jumps up and shouts that he doesn't give a damn about the party. He let McCarthy smear George Marshall, a war hero. He did nothing. But McCarthy isn't going to get away with this. This time he will take action. Adams looks stunned and asks Eisenhower what he intends to do. Eisenhower walks over to a window and looks out at the gardens. He considers his next steps. Then he turns back and says it's time to release the document. The one the Army lawyer has been working on. The one showing how McCarthy tried to blackmail the Army to get favors for his wealthy staffer. A story like that will end McCarthy's career. Adams shakes his head and warns Eisenhower that open war is risky. If they could do the same damage by working quietly and behind the scenes, Eisenhower is intrigued. He wonders what Adams has in mind. Adams explains that what they need to do is neutralize McCarthy's committee. That would neutralize McCarthy himself. What they need to do is take out Roy Cohn, McCarthy's attack dog. Eisenhower paces the Oval Office as he considers the proposal. But how do they take out Cohn? Adams says it's easy. They can issue McCarthy an ultimatum, either fire Roy Cohn or they'll release the document revealing his corruption. He'll have to choose between his favorite lawyer and his own career. The plan is sounding good, but Eisenhower isn't sold yet. Because there's still a problem. What happens if McCarthy ignores the ultimatum? Adams promises that that won't happen. Even Joe McCarthy isn't stupid enough to lose his career over a young lawyer. This will be a win for everyone except Roy Cohn. McCarthy will keep his mouth shut, he'll keep his job, and the Republican Party will keep its majority. Eisenhower glances at the newspapers on his desk once again. His instincts say that he should fight McCarthy outright, but his chief of staff does have a good point. He cannot risk waging an open war against McCarthy, a fellow Republican. So Eisenhower tells Adams that he agrees to the plan. They'll try to defang McCarthy and they'll do so behind the scenes, but they need to be prepared for planned beep. The document from the Army lawyer needs to be ready for the press, because McCarthy may be more reckless than they can even imagine. If he doesn't back down, Eisenhower will have to be prepared for war. It's March 10th, 1954, in Washington, D.C. It's a bright spring afternoon in the nation's capital, but right now, Joseph McCarthy is on his way to a bar. He's planning to drink a double martini, but he's not going there just to get drunk. He's heading to the bar for what may be a very difficult meeting. McCarthy's scowls as he thinks about the recent weeks. Ever since he grilled an army general, it seems like his friends in Washington have disappeared. His senate colleagues are giving him the cold shoulder, even Jay Eger Hoover at the FBI has stopped taking his calls. And then there was the big event last night. The whole country was watching his Edward R. Murrow, the broadcaster, went on TV lambasting McCarthy. But the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent. Rows words were a direct attack, and they came from one of the most beloved figures in American life. Now more than ever, McCarthy consents that he's facing an existential threat. His career is in jeopardy, and the meeting he's about to join could only make things worse. McCarthy opens a heavy door and blinks as he enters a dark bar. The walls are stained yellow with cigarette smoke, and the room is mostly empty. McCarthy then spots the man he's supposed to meet. Charlie Wilson, president Eisenhower's secretary of defense. Wilson has a broad face and bright white hair, and he seated all alone at a booth. McCarthy approaches and takes a seat. Charlie, good to see you. Thanks for coming, Joe. Look at you. I'm surprised you're still standing. Ed Murrow sure gave it to you last night. I'm not worried about Murrow. He'll get what's coming to him. Looks like every other communist dude in the media. Come on, Joe. Knock it off. Murrow's no commie, and you know that. We'll see what I find. So tell me. Why'd you call this meeting? Joe I'll be straight. You went after an army general. You attacked Ralph Swicker. You accused the army's high brass of being friends of communists. Joe, we're talking about the army. You went too far, and the president won't stand for it. So listen, this is a very vulnerable time for you. It's going to get worse if you don't play ball. I'm sorry, Charlie. Are you threatening me? No, I am just the messenger. So the president is threatening me. Incredible. You know, I can dig up dirt on you too. I can find information about anyone. Joe, I'm here with a message of mercy. I've spoken with the president. We're all in agreement. The problem is not you. It's Roy Cohn. So we have an offer, fire Cohn and back off the army, and then the White House will be satisfied. Charlie, I'm an elected senator. I don't answer to the president. All right. But here's the thing, Joe. We've got dirt on you, and we're prepared to use it. Dirt, right? No, I'm clean and you know it. Is that right? Well, how about you and Roy Cohn trying to pull favors for Cohn's friend, David Shine? I'm pressuring generals for favors at the same time you're investigating them. You know what that's called? It's called blackmail. Now, now, that, that's ridiculous. I've done nothing wrong. The art, you're grasping it straws. You have no proof. Wilson then pulls out a document and slides it across the table. Here you go, Joe. John Adams, the army lawyer, he's been keeping a diary. The carthy stares down at the cover page as a feeling of dread fills his whole body. This document has a list of dates. Every conversation that he or Roy Cohn have had with the army in their effort to secure favors for Shine. Wilson taps the page. Believe me, it's all in there. All the times that Joe McCarthy, the so called Patriot, tried to help a rich boy who didn't want to serve his country. Joe, if you don't fire Cohn, we're sending this document to every reporter in Washington. McCarthy looks up at Wilson. And for once, he's truly scared. Come on, Charlie, don't do this. I know I shot my mouth off. I messed up. But don't ask me to fire Roy. I need you. Let me have a meeting with Eisenhower. We'll smooth things out. No Joe is too late for that. Fire Cohn. That's your only way up. McCarthy knows his back is against the wall. But suddenly, he feels angrier than ever. You know, Charlie? You know, forget it. Yeah, really, just forget it. You want to destroy me and my committee. But I won't let you do it. Not at all. And I'm not firing Roy. Fair enough, Joe. I just hope you're sitting down the next time you open the paper. And with that, Wilson picks up the dossier and walks out the door. Sitting by himself, McCarthy suddenly realizes that his hands are trembling. He needs something to calm himself down, to clear his head. So McCarthy stalks over to the bar, in order to martini he's been thinking about all afternoon. The drink comes, and he downs it. He feels himself starting to settle down, so he orders another. McCarthy is cooling off, and begins to mull over the options now before him. McCarthy could fire Cohn. He could escape this mess. But as he thinks about all the work they've done together, and the attention McCarthy now gets on the national stage, he makes his decision. He won't do it. He won't fire Roy Cohn, and he won't run away with his tail between his legs, not after working his entire life to get here. So McCarthy hatches a plan. The army thinks they have him in a corner, but he'll spin the army story and use it to his own favor. He and Roy Cohn will fight fire with fire. Because at the end of the day, Joseph McCarthy is still the most famous communist fighter the world has ever known. President Eisenhower isn't standing with McCarthy, then something terrible is coming his way. Because either you are with McCarthy, or you're against freedom and democracy. From Wondering, this is episode three of five of Red Scar from American scandal. On the next episode, Joseph McCarthy's battle with the US Army plays out on live television. But when the fight turns ugly, McCarthy finds his public support slipping away. If you'd like to learn more about Joseph McCarthy and the era of McCarthyism, we recommend the books Demogog by Larry Time, and The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy by Thomas C. Reeves. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, and executed produced by me Lindsey Graham for airship. Audio edited by Molly Bach, sound assigned by Derek Barons, music by Lindsey Graham. This episode is written by Michael Canyon Meyer, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Our producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and are non Lopez for Wondering.