About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

Greetings from the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to this virtual book talk with Larry Tye, author of Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

On Thursday, December 10 at 7 p.m., we will welcome award-winning historian Jonathan Alter to tell us about his new book, His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life. Joining him in conversation will be presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

And on Tuesday, December 15 at 6:30 p.m., a special Bill of Rights Day program will look at “The Bill of Rights at the Schoolhouse Gate.” The National Archives and its partner iCivics will present a panel discussion examining the application of the Bill of Rights in schools.

I hope you can join us for these two programs later this month.

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For his new book on Senator Joseph McCarthy, Larry Tye drew upon a host of National Archives records—Senate committee investigations, FBI records, personal papers and diaries. Through the support of the National Archives, many of these were made available for the first time.


Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Steve Donoghue says, “Tye has researched extensively and consulted more archival material than has been available to any previous McCarthy biographer.”

 The results of this research makes Demagogue “the fullest account yet of the crusading junior senator from Wisconsin,” according to Duncan White, writing in the Wall Street Journal. 

And Evan Thomas, in a review that appeared in the Boston Globe, added: “Tye is a relentless digger, and . . . he was able to mine long secret congressional transcripts. The result is an epic expose that may overwhelm readers with its detail but will leave them shaking their heads over the rise and fall of the greatest demagogue in American history.”

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Joining us for today’s conversation with Larry Tye is Donald A. Ritchie, historian emeritus of the U.S. Senate. After service in the Marine Corps, he received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland and joined the Senate Historical Office in 1976. While there he conducted an oral history program; provided research and reference for senators, the media, and the public; and prepared for publication such previously restricted documents as the closed-door hearings of Senator Joseph McCarthy. His own books include Reporting from Washington: A History of the Washington Press Corps; The Congress: A Very Short Introduction; Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932; and a forthcoming account of The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson’s Washington.


Larry Tye is a New York Times bestselling author of several books. His last work before Demagogue was a biography of Robert F. Kennedy—Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon—which explores RFK’s extraordinary transformation from cold warrior to fiery leftist.

In addition to his writing, Tye runs the Boston-based Health Coverage Fellowship, which helps the media do a better job reporting on critical issues like public health, mental health, and high-tech medicine. Launched in 2001 and supported by a series of foundations, the fellowship trains a dozen medical journalists a year from newspapers, radio stations, and television outlets nationwide.

From 1986 to 2001, Tye was an award-winning reporter at the Boston Globe, where his primary beat was medicine. He also served as the Globe’s environmental reporter, roving national writer, investigative reporter, and sports writer.

Tye is currently writing a book titled The Jazzmen: How Duke Ellington, Satchmo Armstrong, and Count Basie Transformed America.

Now let’s turn to Don Ritchie and Larry Tye. Thank you for joining us today.