Joseph Raymond McCarthy (1908-1957) was a Wisconsin senator who became infamous for his aggressive investigation and claims of Communist infiltration in the United States of America. In one 1950 lecture at a Republican Women's Club meeting, McCarthy claimed that "I have here in my hand a list..." of known Communists working in the State Department. Over the following days and weeks, McCarthy's claims of the number of Communists on "the list" changed, and it seems likely that an actual list never existed.
Over the next few years, McCarthy's scare tactics increased his power in the Senate considerably. He was made Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and used this pulpit to make wide-ranging claims of Communist infiltration. His investigations of books written by Communists in overseas libraries led many American libraries to purge their collections; his investigations into Communist subversion of Hollywood led to the blacklisting of many writers and performers.
McCarthy overreached his power in 1953 by zealously investigating the Armed Forces, publicly intimidating a popular general. This led to the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 and a broadcast by Edward R. Murrow attacking his methods. McCarthy's power was broken, and he was censured by the Senate. Decades after his death, McCarthy remains a significant but controversial figure in American politics.
- In The Muppet Show episode 207, Sam the Eagle delivers an impassioned editorial against conservationists, and prominently waves a list, McCarthy-style, of animals which conservationists are protecting.
- In the second season Fraggle Rock episode "Fraggle Wars," Mokey Fraggle responds to questioning by repeating that she is "not now, nor have I ever been" a spy for the enemy Fraggles, a reference to a line closely associated with McCarthy's investigations.
- Edward R. Murrow is reverently depicted in the Dinosaurs episode "And the Winner Is...", as revered senior political analyst, Edward R. Hero. In the episode, Hero asks probing questions of both Earl Sinclair and B.P. Richfield during the campaign for Chief Elder. Hero's intelligence and integrity impresses the Pangaean voters, and despite his non-candidacy, the newsman finds himself elected as the new elder.