Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1909-1957) was born in Grand Chute, Wisconsin, graduated from Marquette University, and, after passing the bar examination, was elected a local judge. In 1946 he was elected to the United States Senate, where, after a period of quiet, he began a witchhunt for communists in American government.
   He leveled sweeping charges against the Roosevelt and Truman administrations for "twenty years of treason" and accused them of being soft on communists. He hounded Americans of all stripes, charging them with communist affiliation or sympathy.
   Hollywood writers and television personalities were particularly targets; they were reviled and accused of being card-carrying members of the Communist Party. Many people lost their jobs because they refused to incriminate their friends. McCarthy attacked George C. Marshall—Army general former secretary of state, and Nobel peace prize recipient—and charged that the State Department was harboring several hundred communists. He accused the Voice of America and the Army Signal Corps of subversion. He attacked many of Eisenhower's appointees, but his crusade reached a climax in 1954 with a nationally televised investigation of circumstances surrounding the promotion of an allegedly disloyal Army dentist.
   In December 1954 the Senate voted 67 to 22 to formally condemn McCarthy for certain of his actions. Thereupon his influence precipitously declined, and, after a long period of illness, he died at Bethesda, Maryland.
   The term McCarthyism, inspired by McCarthy's activities, denoted violent and unfounded political attack and became eponymous for political witch-hunting.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

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  • McCarthyism — prop. n. [from Senator Joseph McCarthy, who repeatedly asserted without evidence that numerous communists were present in the United States government.] Unscrupulously accusing people of disloyalty (as by saying they were Communists). [WordNet… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • McCarthyism — 1950, with ISM (Cf. ism) + name of U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (1908 1957), leader of U.S. anti Communist agitation. The term is said to have been coined by Washington Post political cartoonist Herbert Block ( Herblock ). The surname is from Ir …   Etymology dictionary

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  • McCarthyism — noun Etymology: Joseph R. McCarthy Date: 1950 a mid 20th century political attitude characterized chiefly by opposition to elements held to be subversive and by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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