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Edward R. Murrow vs. McCarthyism

Born in Polecat Creek, North Carolina on April 25, 1908, Edward R. Murrow was raised by Quakers. He attended the University of Washington and Stanford University, but finished his education at Washington State College. Married in 1934 to Janet Hungtington Brewster, the couple had one son, while he was Assistant Director of the Institution of International Education. Murrow made his broadcasting debut to America as Director of CBS’s European Bureau in London, during WWII’s Battle of Britain, in 1937. Following his initial broadcast, Murrow had several jobs, including CBS vice-president and Director of Public Affairs, radio broadcaster, and television producer and host. His broadcasting programs included Hear It Now (later See It Now), Person to Person, and Small World.

Following World War II, Murrow worked with Fred Friendly on the radio program Hear It Now. This program was converted to a television program See It Now. Murrow’s most celebrated and remembered journalism contributions were the use of See It Now to combat the efforts of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin. During the Cold War, some believed the Communists blended with the rest of the population, and McCarthy attempted to weed out and punish these members through public and nationally televised Senate Committee hearings.

Murrow was anti-communist, while maintaining his deep rooted passion for civil and political liberties. He felt McCarthy was leading a devastating campaign against innocent citizens, backed by unproven facts. In a joint effort, Murrow and Friendly worked to create a half-hour program to expose McCarthy’s weakly supported anti-Communism campaign. Due to the network’s Fairness Doctrine Policy, the CBS network awarded McCarthy equal time to defend himself, and in the process, attacked Murrow.

In the show, Murrow would play parts of McCarthy’s speech, while criticizing and highlighting fallacies and contradictions. Murrow’s analysis of McCarthy’s weak charges and statements questioned McCarthy’s credibility. Murrow’s efforts finally paid off on December 2, 1954, when the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution reprimanding McCarthy for his witch hunt against innocent citizens. Murrow helped ease some fears of spies in the U.S. living among the public and he made sure innocent citizens received justice.

Researched by Rachel M. Carey
Volunteer of the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School


“Edward R Murrow.” American Masters. Public Broadcasting Station. 22 May 2008 .

Friedman, Michael J.. “See It Now: Murrow vs. McCarthy.” About America: Edward R Murrow. April 2006. U.S. Department of State. 8 May 2008 .

The Museum of Broadcast Communications, “Murrow, Edward R. U.S. Broadcast Journalist.” The Museum of Broadcast Communications. The Museum of Broadcast Communications. 8 May 2008

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