The death of Missouri state auditor, and Missouri gubernatorial Republican candidate, Tom Schweich’s, is all the more tragic given the circumstances.
Schweich committed suicide days after telling local journalists that he was the target of an attempted smear campaign alleging he was Jewish.
Although Schweich was a practicing Episcopalian, his grandfather was Jewish, and he did not shy away from his family history.
Schweich’s spokesman, Spence Jackson, stated that Schweich’s grandfather was a persecuted Jew in Germany: “He had a card which Tom kept with him that said, ‘This belongs to Julius Schweich, who is a good Jew.’”
The negative campaign tactics are rumored to have been employed by the state’s GOP chairman, John Hancock. Hancock denies the allegations, according to an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Hancock said he did not have a ‘specific recollection of telling anybody that Schweich was Jewish,’ but he may have used it as a description, similar to saying, ‘I’m Presbyterian and somebody else is Catholic.’ Hancock said that at the time, he thought Schweich was Jewish.
Schweich’s mentor, former U.S. Senator John Danforth refuted this claim during the eulogy:
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?
In the 21st century it is extremely disturbing that conversations such as these are still taking place, that anti-Semitism is considered to be a suitable weapon in a campaign arsenal to derail a candidacy. Should these rumors of a whisper campaign prove to be true, this sort of behavior is unacceptable and Hancock should step down.
Senator Danforth provided a poignant eulogy, decrying the state of politics today:
The death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become. I believe deep in my heart that it’s now our duty, yours and mine, to turn politics into something much better than its now so miserable state.
Originally published in NJDC.org.