Just days before his death, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (R) told the editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper that he was concerned about an anti-Semitic whisper campaign he believed a top state GOP official was making to damage his aspirations to become governor.
Schweich, who was an announced candidate for governor, died Thursday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Clayton, Mo. police Chief Kevin Murphy later said in a press conference that Schweich’s death was an “apparent suicide,” according to the Post-Dispatch.
The newspaper reported that over the course of several conversations in the days leading up to Schweich’s death, he told the paper’s editorial page editor, Tony Messenger, that John Hancock, the state GOP chairman, had been telling people that Schweich was Jewish
Schweich was not Jewish and attended an Episcopal church, according to the Post-Dispatch.
He reportedly told Messenger grandfather was Jewish and he was “very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith.”
Schweich also told Messenger that he believed Hancock was carrying out the whisper campaign to handicap him among evangelical Christian voters in the Republican gubernatorial primary, according to the report. The gubernatorial candidate had arranged an interview with Post-Dispatch and Associated Press reporters hours before his death to discuss Hancock’s misinformation.
The GOP chairman was asked about the allegations of anti-Semitism by the Post-Dispatch and denied them repeatedly.
“He told me he was aware I had made anti-Semitic remarks and I told him it was not true,” Hancock told the newspaper of a conversation he had with Schweich in November.
The GOP chairman told the Associated Press that he had believed Schweich was Jewish, though, and for that reason admitted it was possible that he may have told someone Schweich was Jewish.
“I don’t have a specific recollection of having said that, but it’s plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion,” Hancock told the AP.
Hancock also told the Post-Dispatch that he’d heard Schweich would hold a news conference this week to publicly accuse him of making an anti-Semitic remark to a specific person. That news conference never took place.
“This whole thing doesn’t make any sense,” Hancock told the Post-Dispatch. “Three months of allegations about me that are not true don’t make any sense. Suicide doesn’t make any sense. It is a tragedy.”
This post has been updated.