'Politics Gone Hideously Wrong': Anti-Semitic Bullying Said to Contribute to a Missouri Official's Recent Suicide
The suicide last week of Tom Schweich, a Missouri auditor and candidate for governor, sent the state’s political scene into a tailspin. Now, the chair of the Missouri Republican party is accused of leading an anti-Semitic smear campaign that contributed to Schweich’s decision to take his own life.
U.S. Senator John C. Danforth, for whom Schweich served as chief-of-staff earlier in his career, delivered the eulogy at his colleague’s funeral early this week. In his remarks, Danforth spoke openly of his “overwhelming anger that politics has gone so hideously wrong, and that the death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become.”
It was a pointed criticism of the ugly tone the GOP primary race for governor had taken in recent weeks. A group called Citizens For Fairness, a backer of Schweich’s opponent Catherine Hanaway, aired a radio ad that took personal jabs at Sweich’s appearance. “Is he a weak candidate for governor?” a voiceover in the ad asked rhetorically. “Absolutely. Just look at him. He could be easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry.”
But friends and colleagues say Schweich was most troubled by rumors being spread by John Hancock, chair of the Missouri Republican party, that Schweich was Jewish. According to Schweich, Hancock was hoping to exploit anti-Semitic sentiments among donors. Hancock has since denied the allegations, although he recently wrote that “it is possible that [he] mentioned Tom’s faith in passing.”
“There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent, and I certainly was not attempting to ‘inject religion’ into the governor’s race, as some have suggested.”
Schweich, whose grandfather was Jewish, was a practicing Episcopalian. In a conversation with an editor from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the days just before his suicide, Schweich reportedly said he was “very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith.”
For his part, Danforth made clear that he rejects Hancock’s claims of innocence. At one point in Schweich’s eulogy, he described the aforementioned radio ad as “bullying.” He added: “And there is one word to describe the person behind it: ‘bully.’”
“Tom called this anti-Semitism, and of course it was. The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry. Someone said this was no different than saying a person is a Presbyterian. Here’s how to test the credibility of that remark: When was the last time anyone sidled up to you and whispered into your ear that such and such a person is a Presbyterian?
“Words do hurt. Words can kill. That has been proven right here in our home state.”
For the full text of Danforth’s eulogy, click here.