American Scandal

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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.

The Red Scare | Loyal Americans | 2

The Red Scare | Loyal Americans | 2

Tue, 23 Mar 2021 09:00

Joseph McCarthy gets help from powerful allies in Washington. As McCarthy’s influence grows, other senators weigh the political cost of challenging him.

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It's early spring 1950 in Washington, D.C. Senator Joseph McCarthy is anxiously scanning a crowd of faces. They pass by in a stream, legislative aides, congressmen, senators, white house staffers. They're all part of the machine that drives Washington. But McCarthy isn't focused on any of them right now. He's standing on the steps of the Capitol looking for a single person, a man who's politically connected and could hold the keys to McCarthy's future. He's supposed to arrive any minute. As McCarthy gays is across the Capitol, he spots a fellow Republican who smiles and tips his fedora. McCarthy nods, but he can't bring himself to return the friendly grin. Not today, he's under too much pressure. More than a month ago, McCarthy gave a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, claiming he knew of 205 Communists working in the State Department. It was a shocking allegation, but it paid off. McCarthy ended up scoring headlines across the country. And even though he's the junior senator from Wisconsin, McCarthy is now in the national spotlight. It's dream come true. But there's a problem. McCarthy made up those allegations. He hasn't found any Communists who've infiltrated the government. And if he doesn't act quickly to find some real subversives, then he's going to be ridiculed on the national stage, or suffer an even worse fate. That's why he's here today. McCarthy found someone who may be able to help out and give McCarthy the names of some actual spies inside the government. Right then, McCarthy feels a hand on his shoulder. He startles and turns, standing before him as a man who's well over six feet tall. He has beady, serious eyes, and dark hair that's slipped back from a widow's peak. The man reaches out a hand. Senator McCarthy, don's the ring. Ah, thank God. I thought you'd never come. Is he day in the nation's capital? No kidding. I know I've got my hands full. Well, that's why I'm here. What should we find somewhere to talk? Somewhere more private? McCarthy looks at all the people passing by. He's right. If they're going to speak honestly, they can't be overheard. So McCarthy gestures away from the capital. Yeah, let's take a walk. Together, the two walk through the US Capitol grounds beside a wide stretch of grass. And as they walk, McCarthy finally feels himself starting to relax. This man, Don Serene, is a former FBI agent. He knows how to find information, and the FBI director himself, Jay Edgar Hoover, offered to help McCarthy in his hunt. But McCarthy knows that if he wants to get anything done, he'll have to be honest. So, Don, I'm going to level with you. I'm in a tough place. We need to find those communists in the State Department. Every week that this goes on, I'm getting more pressure to name names. Well, of course, Senator, I can start working on your list of the 205 suspects. We'll find the strongest cases. Yeah. Don, listen, that number, 205, that was just me winging it. Truth is, I don't have a single name. McCarthy waits to see Serene's reaction. But the former FBI agent simply smiles. Don't worry, Senator. You'll be all right. You have the full cooperation of the FBI. They'll pass me all the information we need. So you're saying we'll find the spies. Well, Senator, that's the thing. You're setting a very high bar. We don't need to catch spies. All we need to do is find people who are suspicious. Oh, you're right. We're on the verge of a nuclear war with Stalin and the Soviets. Mao has an army in China. People are scared. Some commies or pinkos or leftists, they all could be spies. Who even cares about the differences? We're all the same. A threat to the American way of life. Well, I know Director Hoover agrees. So there's only one decision you still have to make. And what's that? Serene smiles again. And cracks his knuckles. We'll tell him. Are you ready to get to work? McCarthy looks up at the mass of dome of the US Capitol. It houses the most powerful politicians in the country. And if this plan goes well, then McCarthy will be the most powerful of them all. So with a big grin, he slaps Serene on the back. And says, yes, he's ready to go on a hunt. Together, they're going to track down some versibs, whether or not they're actually communists. McCarthy admits they may earn themselves enemies. It will be hard and exhausting. But they'll do whatever it takes, even if he's playing dirty. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily. When an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska, it sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins. And where it's headed, we'll have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 6th on ABC, and streams next day on Hulu. 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, and this is American Scandal. In February of 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a crusade to root out Communists from the US government. This came at a time when Americans had grown more fearful of the Soviet Union and the global spread of Communism. But from McCarthy, what began as an off the cuff speech quickly snowballed into a national obsession, one that would earn him fame and political power. And once McCarthy seized the national spotlight, he was determined to hold onto it. He listed allies across the government and soon his crusade grew even larger. But that earned him powerful enemies and soon his enemies grew determined to stop McCarthy's rise. This is episode two, Loyal Americans. It's midday in the spring of 1950. A light rain is falling and Washington, D.C. and a man in a pinstripe suit dashes through the streets. He ducks under an awning and approaches a wooden door. When he opens it, a welcome blast of warm air greets him as he steps into the Carol Arms Hotel. And then he begins looking for Senator Joseph McCarthy. Loon Nichols is an assistant director of the FBI. He's in his mid 40s with heavy lidded eyes and a jutting chin. He approaches a host at the hotel and asks whether Senator McCarthy has arrived. The host turns and points and says McCarthy is sitting at his regular lunch table. Nichols walks toward McCarthy and as he does, he reviews his plan for the meeting. First, he needs to teach McCarthy how to work with the press. McCarthy is on a crusade against communists and for Nichols and the FBI, that's a good thing. They're on a similar mission and they can use a man like McCarthy. Through him, the FBI can influence headlines and continue to shape the public's opinion about communism. But Nichols also has his own agenda. He wants to get a close look at McCarthy to see whether this senator is trustworthy. So Nichols approaches the table and takes off his wet jacket. McCarthy looks up and nods. Then he slams back the remainder of a martini and orders another. Then he gestures to a chair. Nichols sits and before he can say a word, McCarthy blirts it out. He wants to know if the assistant director of the FBI has any names to provide today. Nichols hesitates, but he's not going to lie. So he shakes his head and says, no, he doesn't have any new names of communists in the government. A waitress appears with another martini and without saying thank you, McCarthy grabs it and takes a large gulp. He glairs at Nichols and reminds him that he's a US senator. McCarthy asks why exactly the two of them are meeting if Nichols doesn't have anything new to add. Nichols takes a moment to study McCarthy. He has to admit he's fascinated to see McCarthy in person. He's seen those dark, arching eyebrows from the front page of so many newspapers. McCarthy is now world famous. But Nichols works in intelligence and he knows how to read people. McCarthy is an easy subject. First things first, he appears to have a drinking problem. That's good to know in case the FBI ever needs to wield that information later. But more importantly, McCarthy appears to be entirely self interested. He's concerned only with himself, his own image, his own power. It's a dangerous combination. With men like McCarthy, Nichols knows what he has to do. He starts with a bit of flattery. He tells McCarthy that he admires his cause, that he's done good, meaningful work, and he wants to help any way he can. The FBI wants to see him triumph. Nichols can see a satisfied smile forming on McCarthy's face. Alright, that's good. That means he's gotten through, even if he had to lie. Because the truth is, McCarthy has barely made a dent in the fight against communism. It's President Truman who really deserves credit. He issued a loyalty order that's already vetted the political beliefs of five million federal employees. And beyond Truman, for years, the House Unamerican Activities Committee has interrogated private citizens for even a hint of subversion. Still, Nichols knows that if McCarthy is going to be useful, the man needs to feel important. So Nichols praises him again. McCarthy then takes another gulp of his martinian asks, if the FBI doesn't have names, what else can they do? Nichols says he has some ideas. If McCarthy is going to name communists, he should first understand how to handle newspapers. McCarthy raises an eyebrow and says he's already got the press eating out of his hand. If anything, he should be giving advice to the FBI. Nichols smiles and says he agrees. McCarthy has proven himself to be a genius with the press, but there are strategies he may not know, like planting information at exactly the right time to make sure it becomes a story in a paper. Suddenly, McCarthy looks very interested, and Nichols knows his approach is working. So he keeps flattering McCarthy, while giving him proven methods to manipulate journalists. It's a treasure trove of FBI strategies, and as the conversation goes on, McCarthy increasingly seems like he will be willing to use them. Soon, Nichols finishes giving his lesson, and McCarthy finishes drinking his last martini. He's now swaying as he talks, and he tells Nichols that they're going to be a good team, him and the FBI, together they'll expose the communists. Nichols feels proud of himself. The FBI now has another ally in Congress, someone who will help push the Bureau's agenda. So Nichols rises, and thanks McCarthy for his time, and he puts his coat back on, and makes his way out of the hotel. But as he steps out into the rain, suddenly Nichols is hit with a terrible feeling. This meeting may have been a success, but what if it was a mistake? What if he just gave powerful tools to the wrong man? What if the FBI just helped create a monster? It's late spring 1950 in Washington, D.C. Margaret Chase Smith walks down along Corridor in the Capitol building, her heels clicking on the marble floor. The hallways crowded with senators and their aides, and Smith smiles and waves as she passes by. Smith is a U.S. senator from Maine. She's the first woman who served in the Senate without being appointed or having a connection as a widow. She also served in the House, and that makes her the first woman to have been in both chambers of Congress. But right now Smith isn't thinking about milestones. She has a full day ahead of her, and now that the Senate is in recess, she has to keep pushing forward with work. So she hurries through the corridor, her perl necklace bouncing as she walks. But when she turns a corner, she spots Senator Joseph McCarthy, and her heart starts to beat fast. Smith is a proud Republican. She's staunchly anticommunist. So when she first heard McCarthy's accusations about communists in the State Department, she was deeply concerned. But then McCarthy changed his story. At first, he said 205 communists had infiltrated the State Department, then he dropped the number to 57. And now he just changed the story again and dropped the numbers even more. Though this time, he finally released a few actual names. But it's not just the shifting accusations that Smith has worried. It's the effect he's had in Washington. People are now scared of being caught in the crosshairs of McCarthy's investigation. They worry that their lives could be ruined, even if they're innocent. So Smith decides that she needs to confront McCarthy and challenge him on his false claims. Smith takes a deep breath and approaches McCarthy. Joe, I'd like a word if you have a moment. Hello, Margaret. You look awful serious. What's bothering you? Look, I won't sugarcoat it. I'm concerned about what you're doing. These people you're naming in the press, Joe, their career civil servants. Whereas you prove that they're actually communists. Margaret, read the papers. You'll see the proof. I have read the papers, Joe, and I've seen your supposed proof. Well, then you've seen everything you need. These people I've named, they had affiliations with communist front groups. Joe, you're making a serious leap. These people are associated with liberal groups, sure, but that does not make them communists. At that, McCarthy's face grows red. He points a finger and raises his voice. You don't get it, do you? These are groups that no God fearing Americans should ever join. If you're too stupid to see it, then you're part of the problem. Smith is shocked. She expected McCarthy's bluster, but she did not expect that he'd imply anything about her allegiances. Joe, listen. We answer to something called the Constitution. It gives people freedoms. It sets limits on what you and I can do. Now, as far as I can see, you haven't proven a single one of your charges. And understand something. You're making Washington a dark place. My age say they won't even attend dinner parties anymore. And that's because of you. They're worried you might accuse their friends. And then they'll be labeled communist themselves. Well, I think that's ridiculous, because any loyal American has nothing to fear. And I suppose you're the one who decides who's loyal and who isn't. That sounds more like a czar than a senator. Oh, I'd be careful, Margaret. People talk about you as a future vice presidential candidate. But remember, I control the votes at the Wisconsin Convention. With that, McCarthy turns and walks away. Smith stares at him with a look of fury. She can't believe this. She wanted to believe her fellow Republican was better than this. She hoped that at worst he was just sloppy or reckless. But now she doesn't have any doubt left. She has to stop Joseph McCarthy, no matter the cost. Because she can't let the fight against communism get hijacked by a man who operates, like Joseph Stalin. It's June 1st, 1950, in Washington, D.C. Senator Margaret Chase Smith walks down the floor of the U.S. Senate and stares at the marble statues on the upper level of the chamber. They're statues of leaders like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, politicians who were never afraid to take a stand for their beliefs, even when doing so put them in danger. These reminders of brave leaders give her strength. And she needs it, because right now she's about to give the most important speech of her life. Smith pauses and looks out at the chamber full of U.S. senators. She locks eyes with Senator Charles Tobey, one of her friends. She told him her plans for today. She's going to speak out against Joseph McCarthy, even if he is popular, and even if he's done a good job attacking the Democratic president, Harry Truman. This speech may hurt her career. McCarthy may see her as an enemy and counterattack. But there's something far more important than her own reelection. It's protecting America from tyrants and liars like Joseph McCarthy. Smith clears her throat and locks eyes with McCarthy himself. And then she begins. She says she'd like to speak about a national issue. America has been seized by a collective feeling of fear and frustration. Already innocent lives have been harmed as a result of selfish political opportunism. Smith looks up and sees many of her colleagues turning toward McCarthy. Smith decided not to use McCarthy's name out of a sense of decorum. But everyone in the chamber knows who she's talking about. Smith goes on and reminds the Senate that the Constitution speaks of trial by jury. The United States does not conduct trials by accusation, but Americans are now scared. They're afraid to speak their minds. If doing so means they'll be smeared as communist by their opponents, even by their neighbors. Smith looks at her Republican colleagues and can tell that they're moved by her words. It feels her with further strength and courage. She tells the chamber that it's time for Republicans and Democrats to stop thinking about ugly smears that might win them elections. They have to start thinking patriotically as Americans devoted to an individual freedom. Smith concludes her speech, warning that if there is no change, the American way of life, what they've cherished for so long, will come to an end. Smith looks out again at her colleagues. You can see that some of them are nearly in tears. That's good, she thinks. Maybe they'll take action and put an end to the madness of Joseph McCarthy. But she can only hold it. Because if none of the senators do anything, if they put their own self interests above the interests of the country, if that happens, then Joseph McCarthy's reign of terror has only just begun. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question. While we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance, this is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's June 9, 1950 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Joseph McCarthy stands backstage in a large auditorium and closes his eyes. He listens to the rumbling of thousands of people, they sound like a gathering storm, cheering and chanting, all waiting for McCarthy to speak. McCarthy tries to steady his mind. He needs to focus, shake off his nerves. This speech needs to go perfectly. Right now McCarthy is at the Republican State Convention for Wisconsin. Thousands of voters have descended on Milwaukee and all are waiting to hear McCarthy preach about the evils of communism and the existential threats that America is currently facing. It's a political platform that's won McCarthy International fame, but it's also earned him a number of enemies. Just eight days ago, one of his supposed Republican allies spoke out against him in a fiery speech on the floor of the Senate. The senators seem proud of herself and McCarthy couldn't help but sneer at her false attempt to look like a patriot. He knows what real patriotism looks like. It's about going after people who are bent on destroying America. Still, after the senator finished her speech, McCarthy could tell she'd done real damage. She had actually swayed some of her colleagues, and now it seems like McCarthy's enemies are lining up against him. That's why today's speech is so important. If McCarthy wins over all these people, he'll have the strength of a solid voting base and he won't have to worry about political enemies in Washington. McCarthy takes another deep breath as a priest recites the Pledge of Allegiance, the crowd applauds, and then McCarthy takes a stage. Right away, the applause turns into wild cheers, and the audience comes out of their seats. McCarthy waves and steps in front of a microphone. His legs feel shaky. He's given lots of speeches like this one, but this feels especially monumental. So he braces himself and delivers the line like he knows the back of his hand. It's good to get away from Washington and back here in the United States. The crowd roars. And all at once McCarthy knows he doesn't have to worry. He launches into it. He viciously attacks Margaret Chase Smith, the senator who spoke out against him. At the mere mention of her name, the crowd begins to boo. McCarthy grins, and says people like Smith claim that he's on a witch hunt. That he's smearing people, but the truth is his critics are the ones on a witch hunt. They're whining and moaning while he gets done the real work of fighting communism. The audience again bursts into applause. McCarthy decides to double down. He announces that this isn't time for caution. Not when communists are taking over Korea. Not when Stalin is getting ready to launch a nuclear weapon. McCarthy then pauses. He knows what he's about to say could be the biggest risk of the entire speech. His aides have told him to temper his accusations to stop throwing out allegations he can't back up. They say it could be his undoing this time. McCarthy knows they're wrong. There's a reason he's standing on stage and they are not. So he pulls out a briefcase and grabs a handful of papers. He lifts the papers high and tells the crowd that he's holding a new list. A list of 106 state department employees who are loyal to the communist party. And he says that the time has come to root them out. The crowd roars. And McCarthy feels like he's floating off the ground. It's true. He did just take a big risk. There are no actual names on that list. But from McCarthy that's beside the point. He has no doubt that enemies have infiltrated the government. And if he exposes them, he'll not only make the country stronger and more secure. But he'll gain an even bigger following. A following strong enough to protect him from even his most powerful opponents. A year later, Don Serene hurries through the US Capitol as he makes his way to the Senate chamber. He needs to find his boss, Joseph McCarthy, before it's too late. And before McCarthy makes a terrible mistake. Serene is a former FBI agent and he's been helping McCarthy as the senator looks for communist in the US government. For the most part, it's been good work, even if McCarthy is often reckless with the truth. And while McCarthy has taken a lot of political risks, nonor as risky as this speech he's planning to give today. The two worked on it together, but Serene realized it was a mistake. That's why he has to stop McCarthy from giving the speech. Serene arrives at the Senate chamber and walks out onto the Senate floor. The senator's desks are mostly empty. And it seems that members of both parties have little appetite for Joseph McCarthy or any of his big accusations. Serene spots McCarthy and hurries over to the senator. As he walks over, McCarthy looks up, seeming both surprised and irritated to see him. Serene apologizes for bothering him right before he's about to give a speech. When he leans in closer and whispers that he thinks McCarthy should seriously reconsider what he's about to say. McCarthy shakes his head. He tells Serene absolutely not. It's time to make a big splash. Serene lowers his voice and asks if McCarthy realizes what he's about to do. In a matter of minutes, he's going to accuse George Marshall of being a communist conspirator. George Marshall, the Secretary of Defense, of five star general from World War II, the author of the Marshall Plan, a program that many credit with saving Europe at the end of the war. McCarthy is about to call this man a communist. McCarthy shoots Serene a bored look, then opens up his briefcase, begins rifling through papers. He seems unbothered, and says Serene decides to spell it out even further. He warns McCarthy that if he goes after Marshall, he could destroy his own political future. It's just not worth the risk. McCarthy lays a paper on his desk and begins writing notes. Without looking up, he tells Serene that his decision is final. It's his duty to root out any communist he finds, and George Marshall is the biggest communist dope in the history of American government. Serene is stunned by the false accusation, but McCarthy is his boss, so he needs to find a tactful way to change his mind. Serene agrees that Marshall may be a communist dope. He did let Mao take China, but Serene adds that the public loves George Marshall, so he gives McCarthy a suggestion. If he's going to give the speech, he should just cool down the rhetoric. McCarthy sets down his pen and looks up at Serene, and says that Serene needs to relax. He's just going to knock Marshall down a peg or two. It's nothing big. With that, McCarthy rises and walks to the podium. Serene's mouth goes dry, as he watches McCarthy step up to the microphone. He hopes that he got through to his boss. But when McCarthy opens his mouth, Serene realizes that he was a lost cause. Right away, McCarthy launches into a blistering attack. He accuses George Marshall of running the biggest communist conspiracy in the history of the world. Serene feels stomach sinking, as McCarthy continues to attack Marshall. And as McCarthy keeps ranting and raving, Serene realizes that one thing is now entirely clear. Joseph McCarthy has crossed a line. Bright red line. He's made a fatal mistake. It's October 3rd, 1952. On a train in the upper Midwest, Dwight D. Eisenhower looks out the window at a tall field of corn. It blows in the wind like so many corn fields Eisenhower has already seen. Eisenhower is traveling across the country as he runs for president of the United States. He's riding in his own train, dedicated to the campaign. The train has passed through state after state, and this area looks like just another stretch of the farm belt. But then Eisenhower receives an update from an aide. They've just entered Wisconsin. Eisenhower groans. Wisconsin is Joseph McCarthy's state. And that means soon they'll be coming to a stop, and Eisenhower will have to make the choice between two very unsafe reoptions. The first is that he plays nice, and pretends to get along with McCarthy, who's a fellow Republican. McCarthy himself is running for reelection, and Eisenhower knows the party needs to stay unified. By acting cordial with the senator, Eisenhower could help the Republican Party. The other option is that Eisenhower makes McCarthy squirm, as he shows the whole world what a snake the senator truly is. Eisenhower prefers the second option, because he hates Joseph McCarthy with a deep passion. He could never stand a man who would lie about his service in the war, but his hate truly blossomed when McCarthy called George Marshall a communist party. Marshall's not traitor, he's a hero. He's also Eisenhower's good friend and mentor. Now, as the train heads into McCarthy's home state, Eisenhower will have to decide what's more important, helping the GOP, or standing up for what's right. Eisenhower's campaign manager approaches and takes a seat across the aisle. I sometimes soon will be stopping Milwaukee. Eisenhower shakes his head. I know what you're gonna say. You want me to get down on my knees and kiss the ground that Joe McCarthy walks on, right? Well, come on, Ike. The man's a Republican. He's running for reelection. This is his home state, so just play nice. He'll help you too. Don't forget that you also need to win Wisconsin. You know what? I don't believe I get it. This man makes baseless accusations. He ends people's careers. He goes to the floor of the US Senate and lies about Marshall, a war hero. Every senator, every journalist, they all denounce McCarthy and yet... That doesn't do anything. He's still one of the most popular politicians in the country. Like I said, I just don't get it. Well, he knows how to whip up fear. It gets him attention. It gets him followers. But it's not right. So why are we pretending it is? Ike right now don't worry about what's right. Certainly not a month before election day. Eisenhower grows darkly serious. It's exactly because it's a month before the election that we should worry about what's right. This is when it counts. I could embarrass him. I could put an end to the reign of Joseph McCarthy. Ike, listen, you hurt McCarthy, you hurt yourself. And that wouldn't do anyone any good. So just smile. Let him be. Let him be. I was the supreme commander of the Allied forces. You're telling me that I can't take on Joe McCarthy? No, you can take him on, but please I... win the presidency first, then, then bash him all you want. But today, just be a politician for once. Pretend. Eisenhower clenches his jaws. Nothing feels more reprehensible than aiding Joseph McCarthy. He stands against everything that Eisenhower fought for in the war. But Eisenhower knows his campaign manager is right. Okay. I will pretend I'm all smile. Campaign manager pats Eisenhower on the shoulder. Then he rises and walks through the train car which bumps and shakes as it continues down the tracks. Eisenhower looks back out of the cornfield. He feels lost, a boundless expanse of anger and resentment. He knew that running for president meant that he'd have to make certain compromises. It's the nature of politics. But he also knows that at the end of the day, you still have to do what's right. Eisenhower worries that he just made a very bad decision. Because if he can't stand up to Joe McCarthy, then who will? It's late fall 1952 in Washington, DC. Inside a bar near the Capitol, Robert Taft takes a sip of Rye Whiskey as he flips through a newspaper. The drink burns as it goes down and taft grimaces. But it's not the whiskey that's giving him pain. It's the headlines he's staring at right now. Just weeks ago, the nation went to the polls and cast their votes. The results were unequivocal. They wanted Republicans in power. Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency in a landslide. And Republicans took control of both the House and the Senate. This should be good news for Taft, who's a Republican senator from Ohio. Because come January, he'll be the new Senate Majority Leader. But as Taft sinks deeper into a leather booth, he stares at the newspaper and comes face to face with his one remaining problem. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican Wisconsin senator who also won in the election and who once again is dominating the headlines. McCarthy is a serious liability. Somehow Taft has to find a way to deal with it. Taft places his tumbler on the table and looks up from the paper. That's when he sees a friend approaching. It's George Aiken, a powerful Republican senator from Vermont. He's trimmed with a messy fuzz of white hair. He slides into the booth looking apologetic. Bob, Bob, I'm sorry I'm late. Oh, don't apologize. This, this here, George, this is what's grinding me. Taft slides the newspaper across the table and aching glances at it. Oh. McCarthy says there will be no mercy in the fight against reds. Now it looks like Joe's up to his old tricks. George, they're more than tricks. Listen, McCarthy's going to be a real problem for us despite his promise. Now he said he'd back off after he won reallection, tamp it down. It's only been a few weeks. And he's added again. He can't help himself. He's just got to be in the papers. Oh, well, let him have it. No, I don't think you understand, George. I'm coming in a Senate Majority Leader. This is our chance. We've got the White House. We've got both houses of Congress. We need to be disciplined and organized. But this guy, this guy is turning things into a circus. Well, you know what they say? There's no business like show business. George, I'm being serious here. We do not want or need a circus. We don't need his crusade against Communists. I know, I know, it gets people to vote. But it makes no sense to rail against Communists in government. Not now and not when your own party controls the government. Goodness gracious, can't he see that? The waitress approaches and sets down a couple of drinks. A can take a sip of gin and looks back at taft. Bob, you think we would have won both houses if we didn't have McCarthy? Be honest, be honest. Joe created a winning issue. He got people stirred up and they showed up. They showed up at the polls and droves. Which means we owe him. Yeah, that's the way it works. No, but you don't see. He's going to be a distraction. He's going to drag the party down. This is our chance to push big bold policy we have the power. But we'll lose that focus every time there's a new headline about McCarthy. Some crazy accusation about spies or double agents or secret dossiers. And that's not all of it. It's not just bad for the party. He's going to do real harm to real people. Yeah, well, that's the biggest thing. Well, we've got to find a way to neutralize him. How do we do that without crossing him? A hell of a no. You know the worst part is I probably have to make him a committee chair. Oh, God. Yeah. You're going to be the majority leader. Put him somewhere he can't cause any harm. Stroke his ego, but keep him powerless. Taft taps his fingers on the table as he thinks. Any smiles? Powerless. That's damn good idea. Well, McCarthy's already a senior Republican on the government operations committee. That's a natural chairmanship. A good title, but government operations. We stuck reading a report on how much we spend on paper clips. At a boy, Bob, see? Problem solved. Well, you know, I think it is. So, let's drink to that. The senators raised their glasses and cheers and taft grins with a feeling of relief. Because for the first time since the election results came in, he has a plan. He'll be able to control the party and it's most out of control, Senator. He'll ship McCarthy off and place him far from the action and far from any real power. The McCarthy will be happy with his new title and hopefully he'll stop making so much noise. And then the world can finally move on from Joseph McCarthy and his preposterous lies about communist hiding in the government. It's December 1953 at the Astor Hotel in New York City. In a suite on the top floor, men and women mingle. They're in tuxedos and dresses and clean glasses as they gaze across New York's skyline. Joseph McCarthy weaves through a group while gripping a double martini in his right hand. He pats a friend on the shoulder and cracks a quick joke and makes his way back to the bar. It's time for a refill. So far the night off to a good start. McCarthy is hosting the party as a celebration of his recent victory at the polls. He was reelected to the Senate and in January he'll return to Washington for another six year term. But tonight McCarthy's goal isn't just to drink a lot of alcohol and have some fun, even though he plans to do exactly that. No form McCarthy tonight is also about business. There's a man he wants to spend some time talking to. A high powered attorney and McCarthy wants to bring him on to his staff. McCarthy believes that together the two of them could take Washington by storm. As a bartender gives McCarthy another martini. He spots the man and to the room. He has slick back hair, drowsy looking eyes. A scar runs down the middle of his nose like some sort of battle wound. McCarthy recognizes him instantly from his picture in the paper. His name is Roy Cohn. He's only 24 years old but already he's made a name for himself in the Department of Justice. He works as a US attorney which makes him one of the most powerful lawyers in the country. That's exactly what Joseph McCarthy needs right now. In January McCarthy is going to step into a new role, the chairman of the government operations committee. It's obvious that the Senate's leadership was trying to sideline him, and giving him what they thought was a toothless committee. But McCarthy knows something that they don't. With his chairmanship he'll also be the head of a subcommittee for government investigations. The Senate leadership doesn't realize it, but with that subcommittee McCarthy will have nearly unlimited power. That's why he needs to talk with Roy Cohn. McCarthy will need a prosecutor for his subcommittee, someone who's tough as nails. And it's a perfect description of Roy Cohn. McCarthy takes a sip of his martini and approaches Cohn. The two shake hands, but instead of opening with pleasantries, McCarthy goes straight into the pitch. He tells Cohn that he's looking for a chief counsel for his investigation subcommittee. He wants to know if Cohn would like the job. Cohn smiles politely, and thanks McCarthy. He says he's honored and surprised, but he should be candid. He doesn't see how he could advance his career working for a Senate subcommittee. It seems like small potatoes compared to the work he's been doing at the Department of Justice. McCarthy agrees and says he understands. On the surface, there's no glory being a staffer on a congressional subcommittee. No doubt about it. But McCarthy adds that this subcommittee is different. It might look boring, but if Cohn looks a little deeper, he'll get a strong whiff of his power. Cohn smiles, who says he's ready to take a whiff. He wants to know what McCarthy's talking about. So McCarthy leans in and explains that through the subcommittee, the two can use the power of the subcommittee to root out communists in the government. Their work could be big. Cohn nods his head, thinking, and says he's impressed with McCarthy's plan. But he still shouldn't take the job. He'd be better off as a US attorney. Cohn reminds McCarthy that he helped get the death penalty for the Soviet spies, Julius, and Ethel Rosenberg. He's not just throwing around accusations. But McCarthy was prepared for this response. And so he reminds Cohn that the thing is, he only has so much power as a US attorney. He has to eliminate communists one by one, case by case. And at that pace, he'll never have any real impact. But the Senate offers something completely different. He won't need probable cause or mounds of evidence. He could haul in any government employee he wanted and question them under oath. Cohn moves off into the distance, and McCarthy can see the Geater's turning. He knows he's got the young man's attention, but then Cohn turns back with a skeptical look on his face. Cohn points out that McCarthy hasn't yet bagged a single communist. He's made a lot of noise, but he's only got enough few bureaucrat to resign. And only because they were sick of his questioning. McCarthy points at finger at Cohn. Says that that's all going to change once he's chair of the investigation subcommittee. There won't be enough prison cells for all the communists he's going to take down. So if Cohn wants in, now's his chance. McCarthy extends his hand and looks expectantly at Cohn. For a moment the young lawyer hesitates. But then he offers a cocky smile. He gives McCarthy a firm handshake. He says he's in. McCarthy breaks into a grin. Because he knows that with Roy Cohn, he could become the biggest player in DC. To hell with President Eisenhower. To hell with the Senate leadership. They thought they could silence him. They thought he'd just go away. But he doesn't have any plans to disappear. And from now on, he doesn't have to answer to anyone. Joseph McCarthy is now the real power in Washington. From Wondry, this is episode two of five of Red Scare from American Scandal. On the next episode, Joseph McCarthy's subcommittee usheres in a new era of fear and paranoia in Washington. But one of his enemies will prove to be his strongest yet. If you'd like to learn more about Joseph McCarthy and the era of McCarthyism, we recommend the books Demagogue by Larry Ty. 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 editing by Molly Bach, sound design 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. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her non Lopez for wandering.