ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – For the first time since Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich committed suicide on February 26, state Republican Party Chairman John Hancock addressed the controversy surrounding an alleged whisper campaign, falsely saying that Schweich was Jewish. It has been reported that Schweich blamed Hancock for spreading what Schweich believed were anti-Semitic remarks.
Here is statement from Hancock, responding in-depth to the allegations. Our sit-down interview reveals more about how Hancock first learned of the rumors, how he responded to former Senator John Danforth’s scathing eulogy at Schweich’s funeral, and how he plans on leading the state GOP.
Statement by Republican Party Chairman John Hancock:
I’d like to start by saying that my heart aches for the Schweich family. Suicide is a tragedy that touches far too many families and there is no greater pain a family can experience than coping with the aftermath of such an unspeakable event.
My relationship with Auditor Schweich began in 2010 when he successfully campaigned to become Missouri’s State Auditor. Though I did not work on that campaign, I was impressed with how a first-time candidate managed to win a statewide election. It is a rare occurrence in Missouri.
Over the ensuing years, Tom and I had a number of interactions, some positive and others less so.
On November 14th of last year, I received a phone call from Senator Jack Danforth, who described to me some very troubling allegations of anti-Semitism he had heard about me from Auditor Schweich. Tom Schweich believed, according to Senator Danforth, that I had been meeting with donors on behalf of Catherine Hanaway and telling them that Tom was Jewish, when in fact, Senator Danforth explained, Tom was Episcopalian. I informed Senator Danforth that I mistakenly had believed Tom was Jewish, but could not remember a single instance of relaying that to anyone in particular, and I strongly denied having done so with any malicious intent, as such a thing is not consistent with my character. I assured him that I would not make such a mistake in the future. I also pointed out that I have never met with any donor on behalf of Catherine Hanaway, but that my firm had done some work unrelated to Tom Schweich for her campaign early last year. I assured the Senator that, as party chairman, neither I nor the party would take sides in the governor’s primary.
The Senator and I spoke for several more minutes and I explained to him my history as public figure, noting that I had been an elected State Representative, a two-time candidate for Secretary of State, served as the executive director of the state party, and have been an active volunteer in my community. I told him that no one over that 25-year career had ever charged me with being a bigot and that I find bigotry to be one of the most detestable character traits that could be assigned to any human being. The Senator told me he believed me and suggested that Tom and I speak directly. I agreed.
Tom called later on November 14th and we discussed his concerns. I explained to Tom that it was possible I may have mentioned in passing to someone that he was Jewish, but had no specific recollection of ever having done so. I apologized to Tom for my mistaken notion that he was Jewish and told him I would not make that mistake again. He seemed most upset that I had done some work for Catherine Hanaway in the governor’s race. As I had done with Senator Danforth, I explained to Tom that, if I were to become chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, neither I nor the party would take sides in his primary. It was my belief that Tom and I had cleared the air.
That evening, I sent a heartfelt email to Senator Danforth that explains my extreme sorrow that anyone would consider me a bigot. Senator Danforth responded to that email the next day, saying “I trust you.” In late January, I sent Sen. Danforth a second email which contained an audio clip of me praising Tom Schweich right here on KMOX. I reassured him that, if elected chairman, I would remain neutral in the governor’s race. He responded saying he appreciated my “sense of balance.” These emails led me to believe that Senator Danforth did not question my character or motives as it related to the baseless charges leveled against me. I am releasing these emails publicly today. Because of these past interactions directly with Senator Danforth, my sense of hurt and confusion over his homily last week is profound. I am left to wonder if he believed me November and January, what could have possibly changed? I recently reached out to Senator Danforth asking to speak directly to him but have not heard back, thus I am left bewildered by the Senator’s public remarks.
After my November conversation with Auditor Schweich, I started my campaign to become chairman of the Missouri Republican Party. Over the next three months, some of those close to Tom, including his Chief of Staff Trish Vincent, spread rumors that I was anti-Semitic, had made anti-Semitic comments, that affidavits had been prepared and that “when the truth came out,” my career would be ruined. The rumors never contained any specific details or statements that were supposed to have been made. Yesterday, Mrs. Vincent came forward with new allegations about an acknowledgment she claims I made to her in December, but sadly, she misrepresented our conversation.
By the time of the election for chairman, I had confronted these rumors with several members of the Republican State Committee. In the end, I won the election with 50 of 68 votes on February 21. Though I had hoped the ordeal of the rumors was finally over, within days I learned of a planned news conference in the State Auditor’s office to “expose” this issue. I learned the evening before what the specific charges were and I knew they were untrue and I knew I could prove so. My wife, Georgann, and I drove to Jefferson City in order to be present at the news conference and – once and for all – to dispel the untruths that had been spread about me. That news conference never occurred. Just two days later, Tom Schweich tragically took his life.
In the two weeks since the tragedy, many facts have come to the surface. Among them is an acknowledgement to reporters by senior advisors to Auditor Schweich that there never was any evidence of a “whisper campaign” because such a campaign never existed. Friends who have known me for decades have come forward to speak to my character, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude for those who have taken up this cause over the past two weeks when, out of respect and appropriateness, I had decided to remain silent.
There are lessons to be learned in this situation that others have learned in other times and other circumstances. Never rush to judgment. Emotional decisions in emotional situations are often wrong. Deal in facts, not speculation, and certainly not unsubstantiated rumors. In the end, the truth almost always comes out eventually.
The lessons I’ve learned from this experience are also profound. Appreciate your true friends. Trust in a just and merciful Creator. Tell the truth. Trust in the general fairness, decency and common sense of most people.
In the end, I agree with Jack Danforth. Anti-Semitism and bigotry have no place in the Republican Party. They have no place on this planet. And I am grateful for the many who have defended me against false charges just as vigorously as Senator Danforth once defended a friend who was nominated for the United States Supreme Court.
Now, I hope to put this tragic time behind us. It is clear there was no whisper campaign, and it is time to move on. I intend to continue working to unify our party during this critical time in our nation’s history.