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Televising the Crime Hearings

The Kefauver Committee

On April 6, 1950, the body of political boss and gambling racketeer Charles Binaggio was found in Kansas City, apparently the victim of a mob hit. Binaggio's murder prompted the Senate to create the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime, chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee. The sensational topic of the investigation guaranteed press coverage, but Kefauver further heightened public interest by admitting cameras into the hearing room. The result was dramatic television viewing. "Something big ... smashed into the homes of millions of Americans...," reported the Associated Press, "when television cameras, cold-eyed and relentless, were trained on the crime hearings." Witness after witness, questioned under TV's watchful eye, seemed to confirm the nation's worst suspicions. By the time the hearings ended in 1951, it was clear that television had arrived on Capitol Hill—and would play an ever-increasing role in Senate action.