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Missouri GOP chairman denies spreading rumors about Tom Schweich’s religion

A day after Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich died from an apparent suicide, the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party tried to dispel rumors that he had engaged in a whisper campaign aimed at Schweich’s religion.

In an email to the GOP state central committee sent Friday morning, John Hancock said that he mistakenly believed that Schweich was Jewish, “but it was simply a part of what I believed to be his biography—no different than the fact that he was from St. Louis and had graduated from Harvard Law School.”

“While I do not recall doing so, it is possible that I mentioned Tom’s faith in passing during one of the many conversations I have each day,” Hancock wrote. “There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent, and I certainty was not attempting to ‘inject religion’ into the governor’s race, as some have suggested.”

One of Schweich’s final acts before his death was attempts to set up an interview with reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Associated Press to discuss his belief that Hancock spreading rumors that Schweich is Jewish. Schweich told a Post-Dispatch editor that he was Episcopalian with a Jewish grandfather and suspected references were made to his Jewish heritage to damage his standing with Republicans in the primary for governor.

“Over the past several months, I had hoped to dispel these untrue rumors about me and make peace with Tom,” Hancock wrote. “It is my sincerest regret that we will be forever unable to do so.”

Here is Hancock’s email to the party central committee:

By now each of you has heard of Tom Schweich’s tragic passing.

The news came as an absolute shock to so many of us who knew him as a tenacious, energetic, and effective elected official who worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of this state and this nation.

No one will ever fully understand what led to yesterday’s tragedy. Still, I am sad to have learned that some of Tom final moments were spent thinking of an ongoing disagreement with me.

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. While those who know me understand I would never denigrate anyone’s faith, Tom had mistakenly believed that I had attacked his religion.

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. These attacks are not only disgusting; they are wrong.

I would like to set the record straight, once and for all: Until recently, I mistakenly believed that Tom Schweich was Jewish, but it was simply a part of what I believed to be his biography—no different than the fact that he was from St. Louis and had graduated from Harvard Law School. While I do not recall doing so, it is possible that I mentioned Tom’s faith in passing during one of the many conversations I have each day. There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent, and I certainty was not attempting to “inject religion” into the governor’s race, as some have suggested (in fact, I have never met with donors or raised money on behalf of the Hanaway campaign).

Over the past several months, I had hoped to dispel these untrue rumors about me and make peace with Tom. It is my sincerest regret that we will be forever unable to do so.

We may never know what drove Tom to take his own life—but it seems clear that there were deeper and more profound issues than a minor political squabble.

Ultimately, I continue to believe that Tom was good man and a terrific State Auditor. I hope you will join Georgann and me as we continue to pray for his family.

If you have any additional questions or want to discuss this further, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your leadership in our state.

Best regards,

JH

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