-- May 29, 1954
Benson's program received a cool reception from most farm states and their representatives—Republicans and Democrats alike. Their response was to portray Benson "as an enemy of the farmer." (1)
-- 23 June 1954
[Benson] publicly condemned "the hysterical preachings of those who would destroy our basic freedoms under the guise of anti-communism." This was generally understood to be Benson's attack on the excesses of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. (2)
-- September 24, 1954
Nationally prominent newsman Edward R. Murrow invited Benson to appear on his CBS television program Person to Person. Flora immediately objected, fearing the intrusion, but Reed "saw an opportunity" to showcase the "Benson Home Family Night" and LDS values. Flora remained skeptical: "If you insist on the show, have it down at your office. Leave the children out of it." However, Reed persisted, and eventually managed to persuade his mother, who decided to "thr[o]w all her energies into it."
The live program was designed to "give the TV audience a picture of a Mormon home and family, distinguished by Mormon standards and ideals." Look magazine commented that it "was much more entertaining than most calls on show-business celebrities." President Eisenhower even opined, pragmatically: "Ezra, . . . it was the best political show you could have put on." Murrow said "he considered it the best show he had done to date." (3)
-- May 1962
Reflecting on her time in D.C., Fora said "I was trying to do all the jobs of a good homemaker, cooking, laundress, cleaning woman, nurse, counselor, time with my children, and at the end of the day look rested, poised, relaxed and properly groomed for a formal dinner or social engagement of some kind. . . . I was to look like a charming girl, think like a man, work like a dog and act like a lady." (3)
-- mid-December 1954
As if to emphasize his department's anti-Communist credentials, Benson announced that Agriculture would not be retaining Wolf Ladejinsky, a lateral transfer from State. Ladejinsky, an expert in Asian land reform, had entered U.S. government employ in 1935. Benson's initial reason for firing him was that the Russian Jewish immigrant was not sufficiently skilled but later asserted that he was also a security risk. When Ladejinsky's supporters protested, a public relations "hurricane" ensued.
In particular, Milan D. Smith, Benson's new executive assistant, had "inaccurately and incompletely briefed Benson, by furnishing him an inaccurate and incomplete summary of Ladejinsky's case file." Smith also wrote the announcement of Ladejinsky's termination "without a prior USDA investigation" and "circulated an anti-Semitic letter . . . as 'classic' evidence of what 'thinking people' believed about the Ladejinsky case." Though he emphatically disavowed any anti-Semitism, Benson refused to consider that his aides—both of whom were LDS—could be mistaken.
Less than a month later, Eisenhower intervened to secure Ladejinsky's employment elsewhere in the government. Eventually, Benson retracted—but never repudiated—his claim that Ladejinsky was a security risk. (1)
1 - Gary James Bergera, '"Rising above Principle": Ezra Taft Benson as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1953-61, Part 1', Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Fall 2008, v 41)
2 - "Benson Aims New Blast At M'Carthy," Salt Lake Tribune, 23 June 1954, 1. See Quinn, "Mormon Political Conflicts" for full cite and context.
3 - Gary James Bergera, "Weak-Kneed Republicans and Socialist Democrats": Ezra Taft Benson as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, 1953-61, Part 2, Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought, (Winter 2008, vol 41)
LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson