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5. The"CalDp-Following, Mocking-Bird, Bleeding-Heart, Left-Wing" Press OUTAGAMIE COUNTY Judge Urban Van Susteren says that he and one other man, the late Otis Gomillion, knew McCarthy better than anyone else. Whenever McCarthy returned to Appleton from Washington, he and Van Susteren would hole up for a long talk. What did they talk about? The press, always the press, Van Susteren says. McCarthy would analyze the work of each reporter and explain exactly why he wrote the way he did. Van Susteren believes that McCarthy really understood the press.1 McCarthy talked about the press, too, in almost every speech he made outside the Senate and in everything that was published under his name. Nearly one-fifth of his principal publication, McCarthyism: The Fight for America, is devoted to accusations against the "leftwing press" and against individual reporters. In 1953 and 1954 McCarthy customarily began his speeches by introducing reporters to the audience in this way: "There's Miles McMillin of the Madison Daily Worker. There's Bill Bechtel of the Milwaukee Daily Worker. There's Dick Johnston of the New York Daily Worker. Stand up, Dick, and show them what a reporter for a Communist newspaper looks like." Then he would add, "I'm not saying Dick's a Communist; it's just the two percent at the top of his 125 126 JOE McCARTHY AND THE PRESS paper that are Communists." After the speech, McCarthy would usually throw his arm over the reporter's shoulders and say something like, "That was just good fun." Reporters tried to avoid these introductions as well as McCarthy's show of friendliness. "He embarrassed me one night at the South Side Armory," said Paul Ringler, the Milwaukee Journal editorial writer. "It was a rally in 1952, and I wanted to see firsthand what was going on. Frieda [Mrs. Ringler] and I sat up in the balcony, and I didn't think he could see me, but in the middle of his speech he said, 'Isn't that right, Paul? That's Paul Ringler of the Milwaukee Journal up there in the balcony .' "2 John Hunter, a political reporter for the Capital Times, had a similar experience. "I got tired of being pointed out, so I would sit way in the back instead of the press row," Hunter said. "I did this once at Reedsburg , and McCarthy said, 'Where are you hiding, John Hunter? Come out from behind that post.' Then afterwards he came around and nudged me and said, 'How'd I do today?' "3 I can neither find nor recall any instance of this raillery being reported in newspapers. Not many of his seriously expressed accusations against newspapers found their way into print, either; there was a convention among reporters in those days that it was somehow immodest to report comments about your newspaper, pro or con, and it was unseemly to build up your competitors, either, by mentioning attacks on other newspapers. Many stories in the Milwaukee Journal carried a line to the effect that McCarthy's audience reached a peak of enthusiasm when he attacked the Journal. The only stories about his attacks on the Journal that were carried at any length were those in which the attack was new and specific and those in which he proposed a boycott of the paper by advertisers or subscribers. But the impression that one gets from reading and recalling McCarthy's statements about the press is that his interest in the subject was so great as to be almost an obsession. The most pervasive mistake made by those who have written about McCarthy and the news media is that of referring to "the press" in general, as if all newspapers and other media had reacted and performed in exactly the same way to McCarthy and his accusations. We have seen, in the examination of newspaper performance in the month after the Wheeling speech, how differently newspapers handled news about McCarthy and how varied were the editorial reactions that followed the news; some papers supported McCarthy, some opposed him, and some-the vast majority-equivocated. McCarthy did not consider the press a monolith. He concentrated his attacks upon those newspapers he knew were opposing him; his "left-wing press" list did The "Left-Wing" Press 127 not include a number of other press critics such as the Raleigh News & Observer or the Tampa Tribune or even the Chicago Sun-Times, which he apparently did not read or hear about...


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MARC Record
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