In its first three years of investigating the entertainment industry the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) managed to get a large number of people blacklisted for their political views. This included Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Larry Parks, Leo Townsend, Isobel Lennart, Roy Huggins, Richard Collins, Budd Schulberg, Elia Kazan, Clifford Odets, Michael Wilson, Paul Jarrico, Jeff Corey, John Randolph, Canada Lee, Paul Robeson, Richard Wright and Abraham Polonsky.
In 1947 Roy Brewer, a close friend of Ronald Reagan was appointed to the Motion Picture Industry Council. Brewer later commissioned a booklet entitled Red Channels. Published on 22nd June, 1950, and written by Ted C. Kirkpatrick, a former FBI agent and Vincent Hartnett , a right-wing television producer, it listed the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organisations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted.
The names included in Red Channels had been compiled from a variety of sources including a right-wing journal, Counterattack , FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party. A free copy was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past.
People listed in Red Channels included Larry Adler, Stella Adler, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Joseph Bromberg, Lee J. Cobb, Aaron Copland, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Dashiell Hammett, E. Y. Harburg, Lillian Hellman, Burl Ives, Zero Mostel, Arthur Miller, Betsy Blair, Dorothy Parker, Philip Loeb, Joseph Losey, Anne Revere, Pete Seeger, Gale Sondergaard, Howard K. Smith, Louis Untermeyer and Josh White.
Marsha Hunt was another one who was named in Red Channels: "Well, that ended my career. Red Channels came out in the summmer of 1950, while - how's this for irony? - I was in Paris being invited to dinner by Eleanor Roosevelt. Red Channels was concerned entirely with the broadcast field. The film industry later had its own lists of victims. Red Channels included me because I had been offered my own TV talk show. I'd had beginner's luck on TV, being, as you can see, very voluble. I had been on a number of early talk shows with people like George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, bright, articulate folk. And I was currently quite successful on Broadway, having starred in Joy to the World with Alfred Drake and The Devil's Disciple with Maurice Evans in 1950.... They had listed several affiliations under my name - some I'd never heard about, complete lies. One, I think, had me attending a peace conference in Stockholm. I had never been to Stockholm, nor to a peace conference. The rest were innocent activities that Red Channels viewed with suspicion."
Hunt's husband, Robert Presnell Jr., was never blacklisted and was not prevented from working: "I don't think I could have survived without being married. Inexplicably, Robert was not blacklisted. I cannot tell you why. He was certainly more outspoken in his political pronouncements and outrage about what was going on, and enjoyed a good argument. He was without any kind of political discretion. And yet he kept working. Thank heaven. He was never a top-salary screenwriter, but he did work.... I, to keep functioning, would do plays in stock. I did twenty or thirty different plays around the country during the 1950s and 1960s. That was not very rewarding financially, because you had to spend a week rehearsing and then one week playing."
Raymond Gram Swing was a strong opponent of Joseph McCarthy and on the advice of Edward R. Murrow and Hans von Kaltenborn, he agreed to debate with Ted C. Kirkpatrick, the co-author of Red Channels, at the Radio Executives Club on 19th October, 1950. "I shall be brief in giving the reasons why I believe the approach of Red Channels is utterly un-American. It is a book compiled by private persons to be sold for profit, which lists the names of persons for no other reason than to suggest them as having Communist connections of sufficient bearing to render them unacceptable to American radio. The list has been drawn up from reports, newspaper statements and letterheads, without checking, and without testing the evidence, and without giving a hearing to anyone whose name is listed. There is no attempt to evaluate the nature of the Communist connections. A number of organizations are cited as those with whom the person is affiliated, but with no statement as to the nature of the association."