Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich died yesterday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 54.
A Republican, Schweich had just been re-elected to a second term as State Auditor in November and only last month announced his intention to seek the GOP nomination for the 2016 Missouri gubernatorial race.
Schweich’s wife made a 911 call only minutes after Schweich left a voice mail for Tony Messenger, the editorial page editor of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Schweich had wanted to invite a Post-Dispatch reporter along with a reporter from the AP to go public with allegations that Missouri Republican Chairman John Hancock was telling Republican primary voters he was Jewish. Schweich was Episcopal although his grandfather was Jewish. In his formal statement on Schweich’s death, Messenger wrote in part:
On Tuesday morning we talked for about half an hour as he shared a situation with me that he said was causing him significant angst and asked for my confidence and advice. Mr. Schweich said that over the past few months he had heard from campaign donors that while political consultant John Hancock was doing work for gubernatorial candidate Catherine Hanaway, he would mention in passing that Mr. Schweich was Jewish. Mr. Schweich, who says he is an Episcopalian, said he believed the mentions of his faith heritage were intended to harm him politically in a gubernatorial primary in which many Republican voters are evangelical Christians. He said his grandfather was Jewish, and that he was very proud of his connection to the Jewish faith. He said his grandfather taught him to never allow any antiSemitism go unpunished, no matter how slight. Mr. Schweich said he had a donor who would confirm Mr. Hancock’s comments on the record. He said he had an email from another donor mentioning the conversations.
He said that he had confronted Mr. Hancock about the comments and that he admitted that on one occasion he mentioned to a donor that he believed Mr. Schweich to be Jewish. Mr. Schweich told me that Mr. Hancock told Trish Vincent, (an employee of Mr. Schweich’s) that he mentioned his Jewish background on a number of occasions.
Messenger also wrote the following in his tribute to Schweich:
Missouri is the state that gave us Frazier Glenn Miller, the raging racist who last year killed three people at a Jewish community center in Kansas City. It’s the state in which on the day before Schweich died, the Anti-Defamation League reported on a rise of white supremacist prison gangs in the state.
Division over race and creed is real in Missouri Republican politics, particularly in some rural areas. Schweich knew it. It’s why all week long his anger burned.
Now Schweich might have very well been genuinely distressed at what he thought to be an anti-Semitic whisper campaign designed to do damage against him. But most Evangelical Christians are philo-Semitic, not anti-Semitic. If anything, if Evangelical Christian voters in Missouri thought Schweich was Jewish it might have very well helped him at the polls. So what exactly do Evangelical Christians have to do with Frazier Glenn Miller (who was a neo-Pagan Odinist) and white supremacist prison gangs?
Nevertheless, Schweich’s state of mind is germane and, at this point, the circumstances surrounding his death raise more questions than answers. Local authorities will not comment as to whether Schweich left a suicide note or whether he or his family had a history of mental illness. At this point, there is no evidence to suggest foul play of any kind. Yet it does seem very odd that one would schedule an interview and then commit suicide only minutes later. Indeed, when I first read this story I couldn’t help but think of Alberto Nisman, the Argentinian prosecutor who authorities claimed committed suicide only hours before he was supposed to testify in front of the Argentinian Congress about President Fernandez de Kirchner’s role in covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Of course, the two situations aren’t entirely analogous. The point here is that people who plan to commit suicide generally don’t schedule interviews or prepare testimony in front of a legislative body. On the other hand, human beings are capable of acting rationally one minute and then destructively the next.
Whatever the reasons, the man who could have been Missouri’s next Governor is dead. R.I.P.
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