Several months earlier, on March 9th, Edward R. Murrow and his CBS news team produced a half-hour See It Now special entitled "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy." Murrow used excerpts from McCarthy's own speeches to criticize McCarthy and expose his lies and contradictions. CBS, in a move that foreshadowed the cowardice of commercial television, forced Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly to pay for their own newspaper advertisements for the program; they were also not allowed to use the CBS logo. CBS was quite obviously afraid to tackle McCarthy. Nevertheless, Murrow's broadcast aired and it certainly contributed to the beginning of a nationwide backlash against McCarthy. CBS received thousands of letters, telegrams, and phone calls that ran 15:1 in favor of Murrow's broadcast.
It was Joseph Welch, however, who threw the punch from which McCarthy never recovered. McCarthy's bold and reckless accusation about Fisher on that day in June stunned and infuriated Welch. Welch fully understood that McCarthy had callously thrown Fisher under the tanks of McCarthy's artfully contrived juggernaut. Welch dismissed Fisher's association with the NLG as a youthful indiscretion but didn't stop there; Welch turned on McCarthy for naming the young lawyer before a national television audience without prior warning or previous agreement to do so.
Here are Welch's scathing words:
" Until this moment, Senator, I think I have never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us. Little did I dream you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale and Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty I would do so. I like to think that I am a gentle man but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me."
When McCarthy tried to renew his attack, Welch interrupted him:
" Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
McCarthy tried to ask Welch another question about Fisher, and Welch cut him off:
" Mr. McCarthy, I will not discuss this further with you. You have sat within six feet of me and could ask-- could have asked me about Fred Fisher. You have seen fit to bring it out. And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.... You, Mr. Chairman, may, if you will, call the next witness."