From the 1920s until 1951, Millard Tydings had a distinguished career as congressman from Maryland. A principled politician, he made a dangerous enemy in Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose early rumblings of Communist penetration into the federal government and military that Tydings had thankless responsibility to investigate.
His report was highly critical of McCarthy and when Tydings ran for re-election in 1950, McCarthy’s staff distributed a composite picture of Tydings with Earl Browder, the former leader of the American Communist Party. Although McCarthy himself remained deliberately removed from his dirty tricks brigade, his wife approved the publication of the photo in the tabloids.
Tydings had never met Browder before the latter testified before the senate committee in July 1950. The composite photo–reproduced half a million times–merged a 1938 photo of Tydings listening to the radio and a 1940 photo of Browder delivering a speech. (The caption did say, “this composite photo,” but the audience was unfamiliar with the word). The text underneath stated that when during Browder’s testimony committee, Tydings had said “Oh, Thank you, sir”. The quote was accurate, but taken out of context; in fact, furthest from the amity implied, Browder and Tydings clashed vehemently during the hearings.
Tydings was not re-elected.