The chairman of the Missouri Republican Party on Friday alleged that his political opponents, as well as a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor, were using the death of state Auditor Tom Schweich (R) to “smear” him and the state party, according to an email obtained by the newspaper.
The Post-Dispatch obtained an email state GOP Chairman John Hancock sent to other party leaders in which he strongly denied spreading misinformation about Schweich’s religion.
Schweich died Thursday of an apparent suicide hours after arranging an interview with Post-Dispatch and Associated Press reporters. The auditor had told the reporters that he believed Hancock had been engaging a whisper campaign by telling people he was Jewish in order to handicap him among Christian voters during the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Schweich was Episcopalian, although he had a grandfather who was Jewish.
“No one will ever fully understand what led to yesterday’s tragedy,” Hancock wrote in the email to party leaders, as quoted by the Post-Dispatch. “Still, I am sad to have learned that some of Tom final moments were spent thinking of an ongoing disagreement with me.”
The chairman then suggested that other party leaders had already been aware of the allegations Schweich planned to level against him publicly.
“Many of you on this committee are aware of the issue, as it came up in several of our conversations during the past few months,” Hancock wrote, as quoted by the Post-Dispatch. “While those who know me understand I would never denigrate anyone’s faith, Tom had mistakenly believed that I had attacked his religion.”
He went on to accuse his opponents of using Schweich’s suicide for political gain. He singled out Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tony Messenger, whom he labeled as “liberal.”
“Now, some political opponents—particularly liberal Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger—are using this tragic incident as an opportunity to criticize me and to smear the Missouri Republican Party,” Hancock wrote, as quoted by the newspaper. “These attacks are not only disgusting; they are wrong.”
Messenger wrote a column Thursday in which he said he’d decided to reveal the contents of off-the-record conversations he’d had with Schweich in the days leading up to his death. Among the topics they discussed were Schweich’s belief that Hancock had made anti-Semitic remarks about him to other people.
Messenger also mused on the state’s history of anti-Semitism, including notorious white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller’s jailing on suspicion of gunning down three people at a Jewish community center near Kansas City.
“Division over race and creed is real in Missouri Republican politics, particularly in some rural areas,” the editor wrote. “Schweich knew it. It’s why all week long his anger burned.”