Institute History

  • 1990 June Screenwriters Lab


In the novel, LOYALTIES, Bernstein focuses his reportorial and writing skills on his own family: on the events that shaped his childhood in Washington, D.C. and led to persecution of his parents and thousands of others during the McCarthy era.

The book draws from the vivid memories of his childhood, from interviews with his parents and their friends; from President Harry Truman's closest associates; and from the secret files the FBI maintained on the Bernstein family for thirty years—until 1972, the year of the Watergate break-in. Through the experience of his own family, Bernstein traces the roots of McCarthyism—back to Harry Truman and Executive Order 9835, issued a year before Truman sought reelection in 1948. Under that order, more than 12,000 employees of the federal government were accused of "disloyalty" and brought before "Loyalty boards" that passed judgment on their loyalty to America. For two generations, these proceedings, in which thousands of loyal citizens were driven from government, were classified and, until now, were kept secret.

As director of negotiations for the United Public Workers of America, Bernstein's father served as defense counsel in more than 500 of these cases. Bernstein's mother, who led lunch counter sit-ins for desegregation and marches to protest the Rosenberg executions, was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities when Carl Bernstein was ten years old.

The book to be adapted by Carl Bernstein tells his own story and leads readers on a journey of self-discovery through which he illuminates the darkest years of our national history.


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