MO State Auditor’s suicide: the anti-Semitism connection

schweichIn the aftermath of the tragic suicide of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, we all are wondering what could have caused him to do it. We will probably never know.

But there are disturbing rumors surrounding his death. Just a few minutes before he put a gun to his head, at his home in suburban Clayton, Missouri, he called St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Tony Messenger, asking for a private press meeting later that afternoon. In a touching article published this morning,  Messenger described his relationship with Schweich and alleged that Schweich may have been the target of an anti-Semitic whisper campaign conducted by the chairman of the Missouri Republican party.

Schweich, it should be noted, was not Jewish. He and his family attended an Episcopal church. But his grandfather was Jewish, a fact that he did not hide or deny. So, if it turns out that the alleged whisper campaign is a fact, being Jewish is, apparently, still smear-worthy in certain Missouri circles.

Messenger writes:

I have no idea why Schweich killed himself. But for the past several days he had been confiding in me that he planned to accuse the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, John Hancock, with leading a “whisper campaign” among donors that he, Schweich, was Jewish.

He wasn’t, which is to say that he attended an Episcopal church, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t proud of his Jewish heritage, passed down from his grandfather.

…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.

If the whisper campaign turns out to be true, it is shocking for what it reveals about Missouri politics and Missouri prejudices.

The alleged architect of the anti-Semitic smear is John Hancock, who was once Schweich’s mentor. Why would he want to undermine someone from his own party? Well, Schweich recently announced his intention to run for Governor. He would be running, in a Republican primary, against Catherine Hannaway, who has been funded to the tune of nearly $1 million by Missouri Republican would-be kingmaker [and Koch-Brothers wannabe] Rex Sinquefield. I’m not privy to inside Republican information, but one can speculate that Hancock may be a Sinquefield lackey who would not want opposition to Rex’s hand-picked, bought-and-paid-for candidate.

If true, these kinds of political maneuvers shouldn’t really surprise me, I suppose, in light of how the Republican party, both locally and nationally, has been behaving in recent years.

But I reserve the right to be knocked back by the realization that, in Missouri politics, having a Jewish grandfather can be used as a weapon against you.

I keep hearing, in news reports, that anti-Semitism is on the rise in European countries. Sure, Europe was always anti-Semitic. But the new European anti-Semitism, it seems to me, is based on anti-Israel, anti-Zionist sentiments expressed by people who feel that Israel took their ancestral lands, and who have emigrated, in droves, to Europe.

The alleged “his-grandfather-was-a-Jew” campaign against Schweich seems to me to be a more traditional form of anti-Semitism: the “Jews-killed-Jesus” variety that was promulgated by the Catholic Church before Vatican II; the “Elders of Zion” bullshit promoted by Henry Ford; the “Jewish banking conspiracy” meme; the “one-drop” theory of ethnicity [applied here via Schweich’s grandfather, but more frequently used against people of color].

And the possibility that a party leader thought he could discourage donors from kicking in to Schweich’s campaign based on his grandfather’s Jewishness is just plain nauseating.

It’s a very sad day here in Missouri.