A state senator has called for an end to negative campaigning after the apparent suicide of Missouri’s auditor.
Senator Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) delivered an impassioned plea on the floor of the state senate, raising the question of whether negative campaigning could have contributed to Tom Schweich’s choice to take his own life last week.
“There’s no way to justify what he did because at that point he truly acted alone. In my opinion, he made a poor choice. However if that choice was brought on in any way by the negative side of politics, and the people that work under fictitious committee names, fictitious mail boxes, all while making thousands and thousands of dollars, then shame on them,” said Parson, his voice cracking. “Shame on them.”
Parson was particularly critical of a radio ad that began running last month that compared Schweich’s appearance to that of fictional TV character Barney Fife, and called him a weak opponent. That ad was sponsored by the political action committee calling itself Citizens for Fairness in Missouri.
“The commercial had no factual basis whatsoever,” said Parson. “It had nothing to do with the duties of his job performance of being an elected official … and the fact that that commercial was aired almost two years before a statewide election speaks volumes. It speaks volumes to how far out of hand this all has become. To base things totally on one’s appearance and to make reference to one being small and being able to be squashed like a bug should be unacceptable to all of us.”
“One has to wonder,” continued Parson, “How his wife, his children felt. Somebody you’re married to, you love, that you live with, that raised children with. How do you think she felt for her husband to be described in such a way? How do you think those two children felt when somebody talked about their dad in that kind of light?”
Of reports that Schweich was angry due to his belief that others in the state Republican party were saying he was Jewish in order to cost him votes among Evangelical Christian Republicans, Parson said, “one has to ask why was the discussion even in the first place? Why was the discussion ever in the first place with consultants in the political arena.”
“I would also hope that the people involved, at some point, would admit to making a poor judgment call and would have the decency to apologize to Tom’s family for being part of such an irresponsible act,” said Parson.
Parson said he would commit to not using negative campaigning or support candidates that do. He called on his fellow elected officials to make the same commitment, specifically calling out the Lieutenant Governor, Senate President, Senate Minority Floor Leader, and those senators who are running for statewide office.
“I will no longer stand by and let people destroy other people’s lives using false accusations and demeaning statements all in the name of money and winning elections,” Parson said.
An emotional Parson was asked by Missourinet whether he believes negative campaigning did play a role in Schweich’s apparent suicide.
“I think we have people doing things, horrible situations to other people that they have no business doing.”
A memorial service for Schweich will be held tomorrow at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, the episcopal church that Schweich attended. The state House and Senate have cancelled most committee hearings that were set for tomorrow and have postponed their sessions until Tuesday afternoon, so that legislators can attend the service.