Joseph Raymond McCarthy (November 14, 1908-May 2, 1957) was a Republican Senator from the state of Wisconsin between 1947 and 1957.
During his ten years in the Senate, McCarthy and his staff gained notoriety for making freewheeling accusations of membership in the communist party or of communist sympathies. These accusations were largely directed towards people in the U.S. government, particularly employees of the State Department, but included many others as well.
As a result, the term McCarthyism was coined to describe the paranoid anti-Communist movement that existed in America from 1950 to about 1956, a time which has been labeled as being "The Second Red Scare."
During this period, people from all walks of life were suspected of being Soviet spies or Communist sympathizers and were brought before Congressional inquiries. These inquiries later came to be referred to as "witch hunts" by anti-McCarthyites. Senator McCarthy was accused of victimizing people - and to this day, dictionary definitions of "McCarthyism" include "the practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence" and "the use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition".