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Excerpts secret hearings { May 5 2003 }

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May 5, 2003
Excerpts from Secret Senate McCarthy Hearings

Filed at 2:36 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly 5,000 pages of once-secret hearings into alleged Communist conspiracies conducted in 1953 and 1954 by U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy were released on Monday. Here are some excerpts of his interrogation of the famous and the obscure:

Composer Aaron Copland (1900-1990), whose works included ``Billy the Kid'' and ``Appalachian Spring,'' had gone to Italy on a Fulbright scholarship, so the subcommittee questioned him as part of its probe into government-sponsored overseas libraries and cultural affairs. He testified on May 26, 1953.

McCarthy: Now, Mr. Copland, have you ever been a Communist?

Copland: No, I have not been a Communist in the past and I am not now a Communist.

McCarthy: Have you ever been a Communist sympathizer?

Copland: I am not sure that I would be able to say what you mean by the word ``sympathizer.'' From my impression of it I have never thought of myself as a Communist sympathizer.


McCarthy: I know that every man has a different type of memory, so we can't ask you to evaluate your memory. Would it seem logical that were you asked to join the Communist Party, you would remember?

Copland: If I had been asked to? Not unless it had some significance in my mind.

McCarthy: So your answer at this time is that you can't say definitely whether you have been asked to join the Communist party or not?


McCarthy: ... If you feel you can't answer these questions concerning your Communist affiliations, Communist connections, if you need more time, we will give you more time.


McCarthy: ... I may say that I can understand a man who has got to depend upon the government for part of his income to have accepted a job with the government, perhaps knowing he had joined these front organizations, but it seems you have none of these qualifications and have been rather active in a number of these fronts.

Do you care to give us the list?

Copland: I think, Senator McCarthy, in fairness to me and my activity in relation to the Department of State, it was not primarily a financial relationship. I think that I was chosen because I had a unique position in American symphonic and serious music and I had a reputation as a lecturer on that subject. I, at any rate, was under the impression that I was chosen for that purpose. The payment was not the primary consideration.


Poet and playwright Langston Hughes was also quizzed by McCarthy's chief counsel, Roy Cohn.

Cohn: ``Put one more 'S' in the USA to make it Soviet. The USA, when we take control, will be USSA then.''

Hughes: Will you read me the whole poem?

Cohn: I do not have the whole poem. Do you claim these words are out of context?

Hughes: It is a portion of a poem.

Cohn: Do you claim that these words distort the meaning?

Hughes: That is a portion of a poem and a bar of music out of context does not give you the idea of the whole thing.


Cohn: Have you ever attended a Communist Party meeting? I ask this again because perjury is a very serious crime.

Hughes: Not to my knowledge.

Cohn: Have you ever knowingly participated in any Communist party activities?

Hughes: Just a moment, please.

Cohn: Surely.

Hughes: Could you be specific about the activity?

Cohn: No.

Hughes: No.

Cohn: I asked you a question. I would like an answer.


Stanley Berinsky, a steam engineer, had served in the Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. His mother was an ex-Communist. He was questioned by McCarthy and the committee's director Francis Carr on Nov. 5, 1953.

McCarthy: Your mother's name was Mary, was it?

Berinsky: Yes, that is correct.


McCarthy: Was she a member of the party?

Berinsky: I don't know.

McCarthy: How long since you lived with her?

Berinsky: I lived with her, since -- oh, it would be 1940 when I went away to college.

McCarthy: In other words, you lived at your mother's home until you went to college?

Berinsky: Yes.

Carr: Your mother was a member of the Communist Party for 15 years and you don't know it?

Berinsky: I don't know.


Carr: How old were you when you left home?

Berinsky: Seventeen in 1940. I went away to college.

Carr: Even now you don't know that she is?

Berinsky: I know now she is not. She told me she had resigned because of me mainly.

Carr: She has resigned from the Communist Party?

Berinsky: She told me she had resigned.

McCarthy: Let's get this straight. ... You just got through telling us you did not know she was a Communist; now you tell us she resigned from the Communist Party? As of when?

Berinsky: I didn't know this until the security suspension came up at Fort Monmouth.

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