I pleaded till I wept to put her in the chair. Me, I did that.

The quote belongs to a character from the 1991 award-winning play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.  The character speaking is Roy Cohn, a closeted gay lawyer, based on real life attorney Roy M. Cohn, who, just as in history, contracts AIDS, which he insists is liver cancer in order to preserve his reputation.

Yeah, you heard of Ethel Rosenberg. Maybe even read about her in the history books. Well, if it wasn’t for me, Joe, Ethel Rosenberg would be alive today, writing some personal-advice column for Ms. Magazine. She isn’t. Because, during the trial, Joe, I was on the phone every day talking with the judge. Every day, doing what I do best — talking on the telephone. Making sure that that timid Yid nebbish on the bench did his duty to America, to history. That sweet, unprepossessing woman, two kids, boo-hoo-hoo, reminded us all of our little Jewish mamas. She came this close to getting life. I pleaded till I wept to put her in the chair. Me, I did that. I’d have fucking pulled the switch if they let me. Why? Because I fucking hate traitors. Because I fucking hate communists. Was it legal? Fuck legal!

~ Roy M. Cohn

You probably never heard of Roy M. Cohn — in our media-saturated time, he would’ve become a Fox News legal super-star.

He started out as an aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy and was later appointed by Senator McCarthy as Chief counsel to the Government Committee on Operations of the Senate.  Clearly, he shared in the mindset and ideas of the infamous Senator and his role in American politics of the 1950s was quite dramatic.  He played a prominent role in the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and he assisted in Senator McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade, becoming well-known for his aggressive questioning of suspected communists.

To help you understand that is play quotation is not a very good joke, I turn to a quotation from Roy M. Cohn’s WikiPedia page:

Cohn always took great pride in the Rosenberg verdict, and claimed to have played an even greater part than his public role: he said in his autobiography that his own influence had led to both Saypol and Judge Irving Kaufman being appointed to the case. He further alleged that Judge Kaufman imposed the death penalty based on his personal recommendation.


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