A day after Tom Schweich’s death, little makes sense about why he died

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Why would someone who announced in January that he’s running for Missouri governor shoot himself?

Why would that person summon reporters to his house for a 2:30 p.m. press gathering, only to die by his own hand some five hours earlier?

Why would concern about an apparent whisper campaign by a Missouri Republican apparatchik about one’s Jewish heritage be so troubling for an attendee of an Episcopalian church?

There may never be answers to the many questions swirling around Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich’s sudden death on Thursday afternoon. 

It’s definitive that Schweich, a 54-year-old husband and father of two children, died from a single bullet. Authorities who investigated the scene indicate that all signs so far point to suicide.

An odd chain of events preceded Schweich’s death. Tony Messenger, a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, issued a statement saying that he was a recipient of a voice mail from Schweich Thursday morning asking the newspaper to send a reporter to his house that afternoon. (The Associated Press received a similar call.) The voice mail to Messenger indicated that Schweich wanted to discuss religion.

Messenger reveals that he had an off-the-record conversation with Schweich earlier this week in which Schweich confided that he was deeply distressed by an apparent whisper campaign carried out by newly elected Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock, who was telling political donors that Schweich was Jewish.

Schweich had a Jewish grandfather, but Schweich himself attended an Episcopal church.

“He said his grandfather taught him to never allow any anti-Semitism to go unpunished, no matter how slight,” Messenger writes. “Mr. Schweich said he had a donor who would confirm Mr. Hancock’s comments on the record.”

Messenger adds that Schweich wanted to hold a press conference on the matter on Tuesday. That account dovetails with a report in PoliticMO this week that says Hancock traveled unexpectedly to Jefferson City on Tuesday to pre-empt any public airing of grievances by Schweich.

Hancock seemed to hedge when asked about the matter in the aftermath of Schweich’s death.

“I don’t have a specific recollection of having said that,” Hancock told the AP on Thursday. “But it’s plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish, because I thought he was, but I wouldn’t have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion.”

Hancock has worked with Schweich’s Republican primary opponent, Catherine Hanaway.

At any rate, it wasn’t more than just a few minutes after Schweich put down the phone after putting himself on a couple of reporters’ schedules that he suffered a fatal wound, apparently by his own hand.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

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