(The following article first appeared in the 9/9/92 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative weekly newspaper, Downtown.)
The Hearst media conglomerate played a key role in the rise of U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy to national prominence in the late 1940s and early 1950s—during a witch-hunting, “red scare” era of U.S. history, when U.S. citizens in all walks of life were indiscriminately red-baited, blacklisted, or denied their civil liberties, under the pretext of “fighting communism” and “protecting domestic security.” According to The Hearsts: Family and Empire:
“In July of 1948, Bill [Hearst Jr.] and Bootsie [his wife] were delighted to have McCarthy as a guest at their wedding. There they introduced him to [then-Hearst Corporation President] Dick Berlin, who shared the Senator’s…political leanings and fondness for booze. Soon Dick and Joe were friends. Berlin often entertained McCarthy at his Fifth Avenue apartment…and occasionally invited the Senator to spend an interlude at his hunting lodge in Murray Bay, Canada, 90 miles down river from Quebec.”
The same book also noted that by the time William Randolph Hearst Jr. became chairman of the Hearst media conglomerate’s editorial board—following his father’s death in 1951—the Hearst organization:
“…had already developed a close working relationship with McCarthy, who remained in the news…largely because the Hearst press kept him there. The Hearst staff had an unfailing pipeline to the Senator—through Don Surine, and later through Roy Cohn; McCarthy would telegraph items about forthcoming targets to the handful of journalists who had done the most to help him…And the grateful Hearstlings…knew how to use the scoops;…they turned McCarthy’s notorious half-truths into their own reckless, raging, ill-informed stories about red infiltration and the betrayal of America.
“Bill [Hearst Jr.] for his part, approved of the McCarthy connection…He defended the commitment as a sound journalistic alliance.”
In addition to revealing in 1980 that “the vast majority of news executives on Hearst papers were rabid anti-Communists and McCarthy admirers,” The Hearsts: Family And Empire also revealed that Hearst’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper “organized its own `red squad’ to keep files on local subversives” and “When the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC] visited Seattle in June of 1954, the paper turned its records over to Chairman Harlold Velde, who praised the paper for its diligence.”