Senator Joseph McCarthy labelled Professor Owen Lattimore “extremely dangerous so far as the American people are concerned” in a carefully worded public speech, but stops short of calling him a Soviet spy. The speech was yet another example of McCarthy’s ability to whip up damaging Red Scare hysteria with no real evidence.
In February 1950, the little-known Senator McCarthy gave a speech in which he charged that there were over 200 “known communists” in the Department of State. When pressed for particulars, McCarthy made an appearance before a special joint session of Congress. During the course of presenting his “evidence,” McCarthy declared that Professor Owen Lattimore was a “top Soviet spy.” Lattimore, an expert on Chinese history, had served as a special consultant about Chinese affairs during and after World War II and had been a consistent critic of the Nationalist Chinese regime of Chiang Kai-Shek. Word soon leaked out about McCarthy’s charge. Though Lattimore decried the senator’s statements as lies, there was nothing he could legally do, since McCarthy’s testimony was protected by congressional immunity.
On April 8, 1950, McCarthy gave a public speech in which he continued his attacks on Lattimore. He started by stating, “The reason we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because our powerful potential enemy has sent men to invade our shores but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have been treated so well by this nation.” He called Lattimore “extremely dangerous,” and declared that the professor had been “invaluable to Russia.”