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Joe Mccarthy At The Library

May 2024
1min read

In 1954 Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, accompanied by Roy Cohn, flew to Madison to deliver a lecture at the University of Wisconsin. I was his student host and met him at the airport. He and Cohn were drunk; they continued drinking from a whiskey bottle as we drove to the campus. On arrival, I told the senator he had a hour before his talk; I asked if there was anything he would like to see.

The card catalog in the library, he replied. I took him there. He marched to the M section, pulled out three drawers covering works by and about Marx, and demanded to see the director. I took him there. He and Cohn all but threw the drawers down on the director’s desk.

"This is a goddamned outrage,” the senator roared. “The good children of Wisconsin shouldn’t be exposed to this crap. I want all these books burned.”

“I can’t do that,” the director replied calmly. “Those books are state property.”

The senator was taken aback but recovered. “Well,” he sputtered, “well, you have a dirty-book section, don’t you?”

"Yes.”

“Then lock up these books where they belong.” (In those days, pornography was kept under lock and key; you could read the books only in a closed room in the library.) The director agreed.

I checked a few weeks after the senator left. The Marx books were still in circulation.

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