Trump EPA transition adviser defends ‘heroic Joe McCarthy’

Former coal executive and climate science denier thinks Nixon was a victim, too.

Senator Joseph McCarthy and his chief counsel Roy Cohn. CREDIT: Bettmann via Getty Images
Senator Joseph McCarthy and his chief counsel Roy Cohn. CREDIT: Bettmann via Getty Images

Steven Milloy, a former Fox News columnist and coal executive who served on President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, wants you to know that Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon got a bum rap.

But then Milloy, a well known climate science denier and former tobacco lobbyist, thinks air pollution and cigarette smoking have gotten a bum rap, too, and that Pope Francis is a commie (“the Red Pope“).

This story began Thursday when former FBI director James Comey defended on Twitter the FBI’s pushback against the infamous Nunes memo, which tried and failed to show malfeasance by the FBI.

The right wing sprang to the defense of the McCarthy on Twitter, lead by Milloy, who first tweeted, “There is no greater Left-wing invented slur than ‘McCarthyism.'”


By Friday night, Milloy apparently concluded that Comey’s phrase “weasels and liars” was also referring to Richard Nixon, so he further tweeted: “Democrat dirty tricks were able to drive the heroic Joe McCarthy to an early grave. Democrat dirty tricks forced Nixon to resign.”

History, of course, takes a very different view.

Even the Republican-controlled Senate, in its online history, slams McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn (who would go on to be Donald Trump’s mentor). “In the spring of 1954, McCarthy picked a fight with the U.S. Army,” the U.S. Senate history explains, and the Army hired lawyer Joseph Welch to defend it. At a televised session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy asserted that one of Welch’s attorneys was linked to a Communist group.

The history continues:

As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

The U.S. Senate history notes that “overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated,” and the was then “censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press.”

Not exactly heroic.

Nixon, of course, ignominiously became the only president to ever resign from office after it became clear Congress was going to impeach and convict him for obstruction of justice and countless other crimes related to the 1972 break-in of the the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate building.


It should come as no surprise that those who have advised the Trump EPA, like Milloy, hold views contrary to reality. The entire agency is now run by people in the business of denying scientific reality.

On the March 9, 1954 edition of his show See It Now, CBS’s Edward R. Murrow — called “perhaps the most esteemed American journalist since Ben Franklin” — famously took on McCarthy. “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent… We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result,” Murrow said. “There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities.”

The more things change, the more they remain the same.