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A Redemption Song for Sen. McCarthy

Since the 1950s, former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) has been denigrated for his investigations of communism in America. He has been called a bully and has been accused of conducting witch hunts. But in the new book, “Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies,” journalist M. Stanton Evans draws on FBI records, information from the National Archives and other records to argue that McCarthy was a good man despite his reputation.

“Measured by the total record of his cases and related battles, McCarthy whatever his faults, was a good man and true,” Evans writes in the roughly 600-page book. “The truth he served, moreover, was of the highest import — the exposure of forces that meant to do us grievous harm, and of long-standing indifference toward this menace by many at high official levels.”

Evans said in an interview that he was inspired to write the book after spending many years covering the Cold War.

“I’m in my 70s, so when the whole thing blew up, I was in high school and then college,” he said. “This topic is so big and it’s really more than just this one guy, Joe McCarthy. It’s the whole question of the Cold War and what was going on back then.”

Evans, who served as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and as a commentator for CBS, said his background as a journalist helped him find the information he needed to tell McCarthy’s true story.

He noted that in one instance he used “old-fashioned shoe leather journalism” to figure out if certain people accused of being members of the Communist Party were in fact State Department employees in 1950.

“I looked at State Department phone books for 1950 from the archives,” he said. “I went and got these State Department personnel phone books and I was able to go through and find if these people were in the State Department or not, and they were.”

Evans’ research benefited from the declassification of many of the records relating to the “Red Scare” over the last decade. But the government still would not release all the documents Evans requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Some of it is from the FBI, some of it from the National Archives, dating 50-60 years ago — that is still redacted as they call it at the FBI,” he said.

He tried to obtain a certain document that falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, only to be told that it was redacted in the year 2000 because it served as a threat to national security.

“National security in the year 2000 for something that happened in 1946? I don’t think so,” he said.