Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States in November 1976. A few months earlier, the Italian elections marked an extraordinary result for the Italian Communist Party (PCI), and some of its members obtained institutional roles. During the electoral campaign, members of Carter’s entourage released declarations that seemed to prelude to abandoning the anti-communist veto posed by previous governments. For a year after the inauguration, the US administration maintained an ambiguous position. Nonetheless, on 12 January 1978, the United States reiterated its opposition to any forms of participation of communists in the Italian government. Drawing on a varied set of sources and analysing the role of non-state actors, including think tanks and university centres, this article examines the debate on the Italian “communist question” within the Carter administration and among its advisers. Such discussion will be placed within a wider debate that crossed America’s liberal culture.