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Racism, anti-Semitism and homophobic bigotry are present to some degree in most every social club, neighborhood association and political party in the United States.  It is a fact of life that bigots are everywhere, even when they do not know they are bigots.  Someone somewhere will undoubtedly use the term “Jew me down” to describe price haggling, even when they have never met a Jewish person and are not really aware of what they are saying.  Just as there will be someone who will say that so-and-so “gyped me,” to describe getting cheated, unaware that the term demonizes the Roma people, who are often known as Gypsies.  Then there are racists like the Oklahoma SAE fraternity members who sang a racist, insulting song.  In this society, at this point in time, some of such behavior is called out and the perpetrators apologize, and they are often punished like the SAE members ejected from school.

Not in the Republican Party of Missouri, however.

On February 26, Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich committed suicide.  He had complained to friends that he had been subject to an anti-Semitic whispering campaign.  Before the suicide he had called several St. Louis news outlets, and claimed that John Hancock, the recently elected chairman of the state party, was carry on a “whispering campaign” against him.  Schweich was not Jewish, but was Episcopalian.  One of his grandfathers had been Jewish.

Hancock immediately claimed that it was not true, that he had not carried on any whispering campaign, although he did at that time admit that “he may have referred to Schweich as Jewish,” according to The Kansas City Star.   Hancock later changed his denial to, “I have no recollection of discussing Tom’s religion with anyone.”  Schweich’s campaign aide later told the press that in a December phone call Hancock had confessed to telling people Schweich was Jewish, but that he said he was not going to do that anymore.  There would have been no upstanding reason for Hancock to refer to Schweich as Jewish, as Hancock had worked on Schweich’s 2010 campaign, and had to know that he was an Episcopalian.

There were also radio ads calling Schweich a “little bug,” paid for by a political action committee Citizens for Fairness in Missouri.  The ads also apparently bothered Schweich.

Sen. John Danforth, a mainstream Republican who served three terms in the U.S. Senate, did the eulogy for Thomas Schweich at his funeral.  Danforth is also an ordained Episcopal priest.  He expressed no doubts about Schweich’s claims about an anti-Semitic whispering campaign, although he did not mention John Hancock’s name.  Instead, he characterized the radio commercial which described Schweich as a “little bug” as bullying.  And he said straightforwardly: “Anti-Semitism is always wrong and we can never let it creep into politics.” 

After the funeral, and after Danforth’s remarks, a small group of Republican office holders stepped forward to call on Hancock to resign.  Senators David Pearce, Mike Parson and Gary Romine called for new party leadership, in effect asking Hancock to step down.  They did not venture an opinion about whether or not Hancock had participated in the anti-Semitic whispering campaign, however.

Finally, a Republican donor who lives in Joplin, David C. Humphreys, announced on March 19 that Hancock had told him Schweich was Jewish in a meeting on November 24, 2014.  To take his action out of the “he said, she said” realm, Humphreys made an affidavit, sealed by a Notary Public, detailing his claims about Hancock.

As one letter to the editor writer put it: the claims about Hancock are not quite as incendiary as the notion that an anti-Semitic whispering campaign could carry weight in the Republican Party.  There are no doubt honorable people in the Missouri Republican Party, but to date not enough of them have come forward to cleanse their party of the stink of anti-Semitism. The longer they wait, the harder it will be for that stink to be erased.

Leonard Zeskind

Author Leonard Zeskind

is founder of IREHR. For almost four decades, he has been a leading authority on white nationalist political and social movements. He is the author of Blood and Politics: The History of White Nationalism from the Margins to the Mainstream, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux in May 2009. [more..]

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