POLITICS

The Media Is On The Edge Of A Murrow Moment

"He didn't create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully."

 

​In the early 1950s, Sen. Joe McCarthy was on a rampage. Beginning in February 1950, when he said he had a list of "hundreds" of Communists then working in the State Department, he led the Red Scare that destroyed thousands of lives and tore at the basic fabric of democracy. Four years later, in March 1954, legendary CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow pushed back. 

Murrow's counterattack was followed by Joseph Welch, a lawyer for the U.S. Army, which McCarthy had targeted. Welch's takedown of McCarthy​ was a decisive blow, and the senator fell from his perch.

Over the past week or so, today's media seems to be having a bit of its own Murrow moment, directly confronting presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his high-level supporters with charges of racism. Whether Trump meets the same fate as McCarthy remains to be seen, but the worm, at last, appears to be turning. (Watch the video above by HuffPost's JM Rieger to get a sense of it.)

Strangely, or perhaps not, Trump's connection to McCarthy is more than metaphorical. (Indeed, the head of the Edward R. Murrow Center said Murrow would skewer Trump were he around today.) Lawyer Roy Cohn, McCarthy's hatchet man, went on to become a close adviser to none other than Trump himself. 

In the closing remarks to Murrow's pivotal newscast, one can hear loud echoes today.

"This is no time for men who oppose Sen. McCarthy's methods to keep silent," Murrow said, breaking the sound barrier of objectivity. "There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. ... We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, 'The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.' Good night, and good luck."

Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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