Not Fake News

The New York Times and Senator Joseph McCarthy


  • Ansley Markwell


In the early 1950s, newspapers contributed significantly to the political and social tension of the Second Red Scare. Brought on by the successful atomic tests of the Soviet Union and the fall of China to Mao Zedong and communism, Americans feared the red specter of communism looming over the globe. Nearly every day, the New York Times and other reputable news sources reported on new government roundups of alleged communists and Soviet sympathizers. While communism constituted a significant catalyst for the frenzy that characterizes the Second Red Scare, Joseph McCarthy dominated the political landscape. His actions with the aid of the United States government dramatized the very real fear of communist infiltrations. Although other institutions tended to take an anti-McCarthy stance, The New York Times’ reporting on Senator Joseph McCarthy remained balanced despite the rise and fall of McCarthy’s popularity beginning in 1948 until his death in 1957.