The Greatest Scandal Never Told


The history of the nation is chock full of attempts by one party to rise at the expense of another through slander, pander, and lies. The founders did it, the Federalists, Whigs, the Know-Nothings, they all did it. But the Repugnants revere slander as the last remaining arrow in their shrinking quiver.

And so it’s satisfying to observe them wading about in their own guana. But there was once an opportunity came knocking for an even more righteous retribution, and the knock was not answered.

There was a very active and voracious rightwing conspiracy in the fifties, and one proponent was named McCarthy, and he was a senator who built a career starring him as an anti-communist crusader. He fought against truth and justice in the American way, ably abetted by ratfink lieutenant Roy Cohn, one of the sleaziest morsels the right wing has produced in this country.

Cohn was a gay caballero whose love afair with a pre-Paris Hilton hotel heir, David Schine, led him to one monster overstep. But he had seem mighty men crumble before his merest innuendo, so why should he fear the Army? His head was swollen with the helium of grand illusions and a craven Congress so that it grew larger than the Capitol Dome,

He demanded his lover be granted immunity from Korea, the war then raging, and be stationed by his side in Manhattan, and also be placed on light duty. The Army did not comply, so they were de facto commies and this little rat called them on the carpet and that new teevee gadget was there to watch.

Before the hearing, Mr Joseph Welch, counselor for the Army, approached Cohn with a deal. I have on my staff a young man named Fisher whose youthful indiscretion in joining a prohibited group should not ruin his career today, and if you agree, then your own vast outrage of public deceny will also remain off the record.

Okay, said Cohn.

But during the telecast, there were certain … interchanges which may have been warning shots across the bow of the buffoon and his boy.

Will that question be reread?

It will be reread.

Question: Did you think this came from a pixie?

Would Counel, for my benefit, define – I think he might be an expert on this – the word "pixie"?

I should say, I should say, Mr Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy. [Laughter] Shall I proceed, sir? Have I enlightened you?

As I said, as I said, I think you might be an authority on what a pixie is.

In later years, Cohn expressed displeasure at this particular point-counterpoint. He had more worry when the buffoon later blew the whole deal.

Welch had made what seems a perfectly logical suggestion, and it was only through great fear that others had not stressed the perfectly obvious remedy for one possesed as he claimed of a list of communist spies within the government: Why not simply turn the list over to the FBI? It was devastatingly simple, and astonishing that some blowhard could for years claim to know about spies in the federal structure and never produce a single name.

But McCarthy took the bait.

…in view of Mr Welch’s request that, uh, the information be given if we know of anyone who might be performing any work for the Communist Party, I think we should tell him that he has in his law firm a young man named Fisher –

What followed the destruction of the career of Mr Fisher was one of the more poignant moments in teevee history, and maybe the most useful. Mr Welch lambasted the buffoon with his "Have you no decency, sir, at long last?" and McCarthy sat there like a B-movie villain with his little rat glancing at him from his side.

Just imagine the rebuttal possible from Mr Welch.

The Senator also sought just a while ago the definition of a "pixie" and I think we can define that term and tell the story of just why we are brought here and on whose call and for what purpose should he care to glance for a moment inside his own citidel, in fact, to the little man sitting beside him at this moment.

But the revelation was left to history. Mr Welch took the high road. And so Cohn went on to become an Upper East Side celebrity who was debarred for ethics violations in later years and yet continued as a typical rightwing gay homophobe until death by AIDS in 1986. Rest in Puke.

Quotes from Point of Order! – A Documentary of the Army-McCarthy Hearings, in DVD and hardbound.

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