McCarthy was anti-Communist. Was he also anti-Semitic?Roundup
tags: Joseph McCarthy, antisemitism
Larry Tye, a longtime reporter for the Boston Globe, is the author of eight books, including the just-published Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy.
Was the anti-Communist Senator Joe McCarthy also an anti-Semite?
That question assumes new resonance in this era of spiraling xenophobia. And there’s fresh evidence in the Wisconsin lawmaker’s personal and professional papers, which I was the first person to gain access to as part of researching my book, “Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy,” which was published on Tuesday.
Any assessment of McCarthy’s attitudes towards Jews has to begin in 1950, as he was launching the Red-baiting crusade that would turn his name into an ism.
One of his first targets, Anna Rosenberg, was such a star when she worked for the War Manpower Commission during World War II that General Eisenhower made her the first female recipient of the Medal of Freedom and President Truman bestowed a Medal for Merit. When the Korean War was gearing up, Secretary of Defense George Marshall tapped Rosenberg to find the troops needed to fight there, protect Europe, and safeguard the homefront. Never had the Defense Department offered such an influential posting to a woman — never mind a Hungarian-born, liberal-leaning Jewish woman.
Within a day, a chorus had formed to oppose her nomination, uniting critics of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, racial desegregation, Zionism, and the Nuremberg verdicts. It wasn’t just her gender and politics that enraged them, but the conviction that anyone named Rosenberg ipso facto was a Soviet spy.
McCarthy was already acquainted with this nefarious crowd, some of whom denied Jesus Christ had been Jewish. As early as 1946, the senator had heard about Gerald L.K. Smith, who would later warn his followers to “keep the Zionist Jew Anna Rosenberg from becoming the dictator of the Pentagon.” He met early on and seemed impressed with the Holocaust-denying Ku Klux Klansman Wesley Swift, who would later instruct congregants of his Church of Jesus Christ-Christian that Rosenberg was not merely a “Jewess” but “an alien from Budapest with Socialistic ideas.”
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