May 28, 1954 – The Army-McCarthy Hearings – Roy Cohn Testifies
As the most watched and listened to series of Congressional hearings lumbered on, CBS Radio was regularly broadcasting recaps of the days proceedings. On this day it was the continuing testimony of Attorney Roy Cohn, who was Senator Joe McCarthy’s Chief Counsel during this group of hearings. Cohn testified May 27-June 2, denying testimony given earlier by Stevens and Adams. May 27, McCarthy said he felt federal employees had a “duty” to inform the Subcommittee of information about Communists. The next day Brownell, with Mr. Eisenhower’s approval, emphasized that law enforcement was the responsibility of the executive branch and could not be “usurped” by any individual who set himself above the law.
Cohn played a major role in McCarthy’s crusade against Communism. During the Lavender Scare, Cohn and McCarthy attempted to enhance anti-Communist fervor in the country by claiming that Communists overseas had convinced several closeted homosexuals employed by the US federal government to pass on important government secrets in exchange for keeping their sexuality secret. Convinced that the employment of homosexuals was now a threat to national security, President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order on April 29, 1953, to ban homosexuals from working in the federal government.
Cohn invited his friend G. David Schine, an anti-Communist propagandist, to join McCarthy’s staff as a consultant. When Schine was drafted into the US Army in 1953, Cohn made repeated and extensive efforts to procure special treatment for Schine. He contacted military officials from the Secretary of the Army down to Schine’s company commander and demanded that Schine be given light duties, extra leave, and exemption from an overseas assignment. At one point, Cohn is reported to have threatened to “wreck the Army” if his demands were not met. That conflict, along with McCarthy’s accusations of Communists in the defense department, led to the Army–McCarthy hearings of 1954, during which the Army charged Cohn and McCarthy with using improper pressure on Schine’s behalf, and McCarthy and Cohn countercharged that the Army was holding Schine “hostage” in an attempt to squelch McCarthy’s investigations into Communists in the Army. During the hearings, a photograph of Schine was introduced, and Joseph N. Welch, the Army’s attorney in the hearings, accused Cohn of doctoring the image to show Schine alone with Army Secretary Robert T. Stevens.
Here is a wrap-up of that cross-examination testimony as well as excerpts from the hearings themselves for May 28, 1954.