Joe McCarthy was facing reelection in the winter of 1950. Speaking in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9 he held up a piece of paper which he claimed listed the names of 57 State Department employees who were members of the Communist Party. Two days later he sent a telegram to President Truman:
“In a Lincoln Day speech at Wheeling Thursday night I stated that the State Department harbors a nest of communists and communist sympathizers who are helping to shape our foreign policy. I further stated that I have in my possession the names of 57 communists who are in the State Department at present. A State Department spokesman flatly denied this . . .
“The day the House Un-American Activities Committee exposed Alger Hiss as an important link in an international communist spy ring, you signed an order forbidding the State Department giving to the Congress any information in regard to the disloyalty or the communistic connections of anyone in that Department, despite this State Department blackout, we have been able to compile a list of 57 communists in the State Department . . .
“This list is available to you, but you can get a much longer list by ordering the Secretary Acheson to give you a list of these whom your own board listed as being disloyal, and who are still working in the State Department. I believe the following is the minimum which can be expected of you in this case:
“That you demand that Acheson give you and the proper Congressional committee the names and a complete report on all of those who were placed in the Department by Alger Hiss, and all of those still working in the State Department who were listed by your board as bad security risks. . .
Failure on your part will label the Democratic Party of being the bed-fellow of international communism. Certainly this label is not deserved by the hundreds of thousands of loyal American Democrats throughout the nation, and by the sizable number of able loyal Democrats in both the Senate and the House.”
Harry Truman drafted this reply:
My dear Senator;
I read your telegram of February eleventh from Reno, Nevada with a great deal of interest and this is the first time in my experience, and I was ten years in the Senate, that I ever heard of a Senator trying to discredit his own Government before the world. You know that isn’t done by honest public officials. Your telegram is not only not true and an insolent approach to a situation that should have been worked out between man and man but is shows conclusively that you are not even fit to have a hand in the operation of the Government of the United States.
I am very sure that the people of Wisconsin are extremely sorry that they are represented by a person who has as little sense of responsibility as you have.