One of the highlights of the Conservative University conference that Accuracy in Academia recently held was the image of veteran journalist M. Stanton Evans delivering his talk on the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, R-Wisc., to an audience which included a lawyer from the ACLU.
Evans, who is becoming as accomplished an historian as he is a writer on current events, has come to the conclusion that the crusading anti-communist was wronged by his critics and, hence, by history itself particularly in textbooks. The ACLU, of course, has long held otherwise. The former newspaper editor and syndicated columnist is determined to set the record straight.
The attorney from the ACLU came to the conference to debate Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid on the panel which followed Evans’ lecture. Amiable and considerate, the ACLU’s Marvin Johnson brought along his two equally pleasant and courteous assistants.
Taking note of his presence, I asked the founder of the National Journalism Center to address a long-offered supposition about Sen. McCarthy’s quest to expose communist agents of the Soviet Union who were working in the United States government. “Stan,” I asked, “would you answer the assertion that we have heard for a half a century that in his investigation of Soviet agents working in the U. S. government, Sen. McCarthy smeared a lot of innocent people.”
Turning to face me, the former editor of the Indianapolis News said, “Well, Mal, as you know, I have a standard answer to that charge.” Evans then turned, looked directly at Johnson and said, “Name one.” Still facing Johnson, Evans allowed about a minute and a half elapse in order for the veteran attorney to offer up at least one name of a McCarthy victim. None came.
Such encounters are not unusual for the author of The Theme Is Freedom: the Religious Roots of American Liberty, Revolt on the Campus, The Liberal Establishment, The Politics of Surrender, The Future of Conservatism, The Lawbreakers, and Clear and Present Dangers. Evans has read so many of the case files and hearings on Soviet agents investigated by Sen. McCarthy in the 1950s that he is a recognized regular visitor to the Library of Congress, the FBI reading room and the National Archives.
Additionally, he has obtained information on Soviet agents working in the U. S. from both the KGB archives and the Venona project in which U. S. government code breakers decoded cables that Soviet Union officials sent their agents from the 1930s to the 1950s. “There were hundreds of agents we are sure of,” Evans told students at the AIA conference, “probably thousands.” Evans is currently finishing a book on Sen. McCarthy’s work for the Crown Forum publishing house.
In the course of his research, Evans read the declassified executive sessions of the Army-McCarthy hearings long thought to have brought about the Senator’s downfall. Finding that the wraparound text and public statements by an official U. S. Senate historian named Donald Ritchie did not match the reality of the original hearing transcript, Evans called him on it, literally.
Ritchie pointed to government employee Annie Lee Moss as an innocent victim of Sen. McCarthy who had been smeared and offered quotes from three books as evidence of her innocence. Evans pointed to the official record as proof of her guilt.
Critics of the late Senator have maintained that the Annie Lee Moss McCarthy named as a security risk was not the same woman whose name showed up on the membership rolls of the Communist Party of the District of Columbia. Evans crosschecked the lady’s address with the one for the government employee unearthed by the U. S. Subversive Activities Control Board.
“What are the odds that there were two Annie Lee Moss’s living at the same address and one was a communist and one was not?,” Evans asked rhetorically. Evans had also interviewed Moss when he worked as a reporter in Washington, D. C. in the 1950s.
When Evans pointed out the results of his research to Ritchie, the latter said, “I’m tired of this,” and hung up the phone. As Evans indicated, such a response is curious for an allegedly intrepid historian.
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.