The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 3/27/13, 10:44 PM ET

Rewriting 21st Century McCarthyism

Sen. Ted Cruz has been likened by his critics to infamous 1950s Sen. Joe McCarthy for some of his political tactics. Now, in a Q&A session with a Dallas...

Is Joe McCarthy a hero to Ted Cruz? The Texas senator won’t say

Updated

In his first three months on the job, Sen. Ted Cruz has already been compared to one of the most notorious Republican senators in U.S. history: Joe McCarthy.

“We’ve seen a lot of mud-slinging in the Senate since Joe McCarthy’s time,” said msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell during Tuesday’s Rewrite segment on The Last Word. “We’ve seen a lot of character assassination in the Senate. But we have never seen anything quite so perfectly and childishly McCarthy-esque as Ted Cruz.”

In the 1950s, McCarthy made sweeping accusations about Communists allegedly running our government, earning him his own noun in the dictionary; McCarthyism is officially defined as “the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, especially of pro-Communist activity, in many instances unsupported by proof or based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.”

The comparison between the two surfaced, O’Donnell argued, “because Ted Cruz tried to slander Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearing.” And he called Cruz “the last person left in America–and possibly the world–who is still worried about Communists,” citing Cruz’s accusation that 12 Harvard Law professors who, Cruz’s words, “believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”

In a recent interview, the Dallas Morning News asked Cruz, “Is McCarthy someone you admire?”

Cruz, who could not bring himself to say a flat-out “no,” instead answered,”I’m not going to engage in the back and forth and the attacks.”

O’Donnell slammed Cruz for dodging the question. “Ted Cruz is not willing to say whether Joe McCarthy is someone he admires, and he won’t say that because Ted Cruz wants to live in a world where he can use Joe McCarthy’s tactics and get away with it,” he said.

Is Joe McCarthy a hero to Ted Cruz? The Texas senator won't say

Updated