I got a call this week from a longtime reader, Fred, from whom I hadn’t heard in years.
Fred congenially disagrees with just about every position I take — he’s much nicer over the phone than he can be in comment threads — which is fine by me. You don’t have to agree with my politics to be my friend.
Fred took some issue with my cover story last week, “Looking for Edward R. Murrow,” which he called “nostalgic and fawning” in an email — read the whole thing below.
He reasoned that no one had been able to produce anyone unjustly accused by Sen. Joe McCarthy during his reign of fear in the 1950s, and that one of them whom Murrow had defended, Laurence Duggan, had been confirmed as a Soviet spy during his time with the US State Department by documents released in the 1990s.
This is true. In fact, the Venona Files — declassified Soviet recordings from the 1940s made available after the empire’s fall — implicate Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Alger Hiss, and perhaps hundreds of other Americans in an espionage ring that circled the globe during the Cold War years.
So McCarthy was right in that there were Soviet spies working within the US government, though everybody already knew that by the time the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage in 1951. And there is almost no overlap between McCarthy’s lists of reds and those outed by Venona, which include atomic physicist Klaus Fuchs — who leaked information on the Manhattan Project — but zero names from McCarthy’s first infamous list from the 1950 Wheeling speech. Historian John Earl Haynes has done the cross-referencing on an excellent page on his website.
And none of this has much to do with Murrow, I don’t think, because he exposed McCarthy’s tactics, and revealed them to be logical canards based on half-truths and outright falsehoods — his demonization of the ACLU comes to mind.
No doubt Fred will have himself a chuckle at my naïveté when he reads this column, and hopefully he’ll fire off another letter that will send me traipsing through deep Google searches. And once again, maybe he’ll alter my worldview just a bit.
I have no such illusions that I will change Fred’s mind about anything, though. The guy’s a rock.
Letter To The Editor
Triad City Beat
I am writing about the nostalgic and fawning article by Brian Clary on the journalistic career of Edward R. Murrow.
A decade ago George Clooney starred in and directed a movie about Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy which failed to produce one person unjustly accused by McCarthy.
In her book ” Treason” Ann Coulter described McCarthy as a great American patriot, who was defamed by liberals. The liberals have had two more years to produce a person — just one person — falsely accused by McCarthy.
They still can’t do it.
Murrow’s good friend Lawrence Duggan was a Soviet spy responsible for having innocent people murdered. The brilliant and perceptive journalist Murrow was not only unaware of the hundreds of Soviet spies running loose in the U.S. government, he was also unaware that his own friend Duggan was a spy for Stalin — his friend on whose behalf corpses littered the Swiss landscape.
After Duggan’s suicide, Murrow, along with the rest of the howling establishment mob, angrily denounced the idea that Duggan could possibly have been disloyal to America.
Well, now we know the truth. Decrypted Soviet cables and mountains of documents from Soviet archives prove beyond doubt that Lawrence Duggan was one of Stalin’s most important spies. “McCarthyism” didn’t kill him; his guilt did.
One other point . The movie overlooks ( and Clarey doesn’t touch it ) Clooney’s Hollywood airbrushing of the Annie Lee Moss case. The movie paints her as an innocent victim of the inquisitional monster McCarthy. She denies, under oath, membership in the Communist Party USA. Only one problem. Moss was a Communist working in the Pentagon code room. And she was a perjurer. All this was neglected by the movie while lionizing the director’s hero, Murrow.
Clarey’s article romanticizes Murrow and praises his activities for bringing to light McCarthy’s activities . Clarey declares that no one captured the American public’s trust more than Murrow, albeit a misplaced belief in light of what history now tells us.
Fred Gregory, Greensboro