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Hit List

At the start of the McCarthy era, Floridian Claude Pepper, one of the Senate’s most outspoken liberals, was on the conservatives’ “hit list” along with many other senators. George Smathers lashed out with some typical right-wing invective—he called his opponent “the Red Pepper”—and he launched a campaign to expose Pepper’s secret “vices.” Smathers disclosed that Pepper was “a known extrovert,” his sister was a “thespian,” and his brother a “practicing homo sapiens.” Also, when Pepper went to college, he actually “matriculated.” Worst of all, he “practiced celibacy” before marriage. Naturally, rural voters were horrified, and Pepper lost.

Book of Lists No. 2, pp. 36-37

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