Son of legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow to speak about father's legacy at Putney, Vt. library

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PUTNEY, Vt. — Casey Murrow is generally very private about his famous father, Edward R. Murrow, who first came to the attention of the American public through his riveting eyewitness CBS radio broadcasts from London during the blitz in September 1940.

But he will speak at the Putney Public Library on Monday about the connections he sees between the McCarthy era and today. The free presentation, "We Cannot Escape Responsibility: The Broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s," will begin at 7 p.m. in the library at 55 Main St.

Murrow first gave this presentation at Landmark College in Putney last September.

"I've heard endless references and comments about `Wouldn't it be great if Edward R. Murrow were here to confront [President Donald] Trump,'" he said, explaining the focus of his presentation. "There are several reasons that seems impossible to me today, and it seemed an appropriate time to do some talks."

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, R-Wis., claimed in February 1950 to have a list of 205 communist infiltrators working in the government — traitors, he said, who were subverting the efforts of the United States to defeat communism. His charges contributed to the period in American history called the "Red Scare," and led to the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings. McCarthy's chief counsel during the hearings was Roy Cohn, who later became Donald Trump's mentor.

On March 9, 1954, using McCarthy's own words and actions, Edward R. Murrow gave a devastating analysis on his television show "See It Now" of McCarthy's fear-mongering, bullying and arrogant twisting of truth to suit his own ends.

At the end of the broadcast, Murrow spoke directly into the camera, saying in part, "This is no time for men who oppose Sen. McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation, we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Casey Murrow, who was 7 when the controversy was at its height, said he remembers "the family side of it. There were significant threats against my parents, but also against me, and that took my parents aback in a big way.

"I remember the changes that took place in my life," he continued. "I had to take a different way to school, and I was always accompanied wherever I went. To my parents' credit, I didn't understand any of it. I was 12 or 14 when they began to tell me what had been going on. I was astonished, and I thought it was extremely unusual and weird."

Today, Murrow observed, "What I saw as extremely unusual has ceased to be that. Now incredible numbers of threats are shipped out to people (via social media), and a number of those threats are physical."

In his presentation, Murrow will include audio, video and still photos from the era. He said he is looking forward to the question-and-answer period following the talk.

The program is free and open to the public.

Nancy A. Olson can be reached at olsonnan47@gmail.com.


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