Published On: Thu, Mar 5th, 2015

Former Senator Condemns Antisemitic Whisper Campaign Behind Tom Schweich’s Suicide

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth blamed bullying and a "win at all costs" attitude for the ugly whisper campaign

Tom Schweich

Former U.S. Senator John Danforth decried the political bullying and the anti-semitic whisper campaign that might have contributed to the suicide of  Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate, Tom Schweich.

Danforth, who in addition to having served as a Senator, is an Episcopal priest, gave a eulogy for Schweich at the Church of St. Michael and St. George. He told the audience that days before Schweich was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, he consulted with Danforth about a harsh radio ad attacking him, and an anti-semitic whisper campaign that Schweich, who is Episcopalian and has a Jewish grandfather, is Jewish.

Schweich told Danforth that a GOP official, John Hancock, was responsible for the whisper campaign, and when he suggested holding a press conference, Danforth discouraged him, lest the attention be focused on Schweich himself and not “about the evil he wanted to fight, ” according to St.Lous Today. Danforth acknowledged that what he told Schweich might have caused him to think “that I had abandoned him and left him on the high ground, all alone that had to be fought.”

Hancock claims that he might have mentioned that Schweich was Jewish once, but that was because he had made a mistake and thought that Schweich was Jewish. Danforth made the (to some troubling, given possible implications) argument that “The only reason for going around saying someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry.”

Calls have been made for Hancock’s resignation, but one problem with this is that if the whisper campaign can’t be proven, and Hancock steps down merely for mentioning he thought Schweich was Jewish, it might reinforce the idea that merely to mention that someone is Jewish is inherently anti-semitic.

One thing is certain; Schweich definitely believed the whisper campaign was anti-semitic and Danforth believes him. Chuck Todd of NBC news interviewed Tony Messenger of the St. Louis Dispatch whom Schweich phoned just hours before his apparent suicide, and asked if anti-semitic whisper campaigns were known to be a problem in Missouri.

Without identifying anti-semitic whisper campaigns specifically, he said whisper campaigns concerning a number of issues were “sadly not uncommon in the state of Missouri.” Messenger blamed the amount of money in politics with unlimited donations, and the result has been increasingly vicious primaries, categorized by bullying.

Danforth said he hadn’t witnessed anti-semitism as an issue before in Missouri elections, although there is no doubt he found Schweich’s complaints credible; “What has been said is worse than anything in memory, and I have a long memory. I have never experienced an anti-semitic campaign. Anti-Semitism is always wrong, and we can never let it creep into politics.” He added, according to St. Louis Today. Danforth decried the bullying in political life and the “win at any cost” strategy.

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