America lost a great man and scholar this week: Stan Evans.
If you don’t know Stan Evans, you don’t know Senator Joe McCarthy. One of the thick, heavily footnoted works of Evans was Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies. I have never read a book so thoroughly footnoted.
In sum, Evans recognized that McCarthy had his flaws, as everyone does. But the truth is that McCarthy was onto something when he claimed Soviet agents and sympathizers had infiltrated the United States government. Evans used records from the Venona Project containing Soviet archives to match many of the people McCarthy claimed were Soviet moles with actual Soviet KGB records. In short, McCarthy was more right than wrong.
But don’t tell Hollywood or the Democrats (and even some Republicans). They long ago turned McCarthyism into a noun.
After I left the Justice Department, I got in touch with Evans. Evans graciously spent hours on the telephone with me one day, chatting about some of my favorite topics: history, myth, the Soviets and the unique role of America in defending and preserving the dignity of human freedom.
Evans knew his stuff. He was a giant in the defense of human freedom.
But our conversation touched on a matter that had profound historical import, especially for the mythology that McCarthy was a Witchfinder General who made false accusations. It was also a matter which escaped his book.
A central criticism of McCarthy is that he was a fabulist, that he exaggerated the number of communist agents in a famous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, on February 9, 1950. The issue is whether McCarthy said he had a list of 57 or 205 communist agents or sympathizers. Claims that he exaggerated this number would dog McCarthy through his fight with Truman, Eisenhower and the Senate.
Evans noted in his book two important facts. First, McCarthy claimed he said 57, and he submitted this number in his official text of the speech into the Congressional record. The truth is he got this list from State Department whistle blowers frustrated with the lax security at State toward Soviet sympathizers. Second, all newspaper accounts of his speech in the Wheeling papers vanished. Evans could not obtain firsthand contemporaneous accounts of the speech because, simply, they vanished from many of the usual sources that would have them.
I asked Stanton why he didn’t go to the Wise Library at West Virginia University, my alma mater, and look for the February 1950 Wheeling paper there. Stanton excitedly told me that he did, though after his book was published. He found a copy of the missing newspaper account at WVU. Naturally, Stanton said McCarthy had in fact only referred to 57 Soviet agents and sympathizers — a claim backed up in time by records obtained in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Nobody should be terribly surprised by the communist influence in the American government. Through the 1930s, Stalin was Uncle Joe, presiding over a fundamental transformation of economic systems. Fans from around the world flocked to participate in this new model. Many ended up with bullets in the head. Papers like the New York Times hid the gulags and starvation from the world. In World War II, Uncle Joe was our ally, and sympathizers in positions of power replicated themselves throughout government.
Stan Evans documented this history in footnoted detail. It’s a documented history that lives on and the cause of freedom is better off because of Stan Evans.