“I can see you are using an old commie trick, putting God’s name on a radical petition,” one elderly man told him.
Hunter assured one woman that the opening words of his petition came from the Declaration of Independence, but she refused to believe him.
“That might be from the Russian Declaration of Independence, but you can’t tell me that it is ours,” the woman said.
The Associated Press and United Press International both refused to syndicate Hunter’s piece over McCarthyism fears, but it quickly became famous among journalists and political leaders.
McCarthy unsurprisingly criticized Hunter’s piece and congratulated Madison residents for refusing to sign a petition “put out by the communist editor of a communist newspaper,” and the reactionary Wisconsin State Journal ran a photo of the reporter with a bushy mustache with a caption suggesting unsavory connections.
What was presented as a "petition" was the preamble to the Declaration of Independence ("When in the course of human events...."), six of the first ten amendments, and the 15th amendment regarding voting (the amendment finally given legal authority by the Voting Rights Act, until the Roberts court declared the Year of Jubilee). My favorite bit is McCarthy calling it a commie petition put out by a commie paper and a commie editor. The paper was The Capitol Times in Wisconsin. The year was 1951. The reporter tasked with writing a column about the 4th of July (!) got one person to sign his petition; that person recognized the source material. Nobody else did. 20 of those who refused also accused the reporter of being a communist.
Interestingly, nothing is self-evident after all.